The 91st Academy Awards 2019 – Winners List

The 91st Academy Awards Ceremonies takes place on February the 24th Sunday at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Centre in L.A.

Movie fans worldwide will tune as they seek to see who will come up with top Honors as well as what blunders that might occur.

This year marks one of the rare times the ceremonies will be without a host after comedian Kevin Hart got fired for making homophobic remarks.  The organizers promise a more dependable list of presenters.  As expected, quite a few jokes were made of the fact.

The ceremonies began with Adam Lambert’s rendition of “We Will Rock You” from the Best Picture Oscar Nominee BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.  The first presenters Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did a short stand-up spill to replace the usual 10 minutes opening routine by the host,

Changes are not necessarily be for the good.  One of the silliest, in my opinion is to have a total of 8 films nominated for Best Picture instead of the old 5.  This means more disappointments and there is no point, in my humble opinion to have more films listed only to be shunned.

Another change proposed was for the prizes for cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling to be presented during TV commercials.  This proposal was met with outrage and reasonably so.  Film editing and cinematography are key to a great film.  This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short are nothing short of phenomenal.

Last year’s Oscars was the lowest rated ever.  The 91st should prove better.

The funniest speech was from Olivia Colman winning from THE FAVOURITE, though Spike Lee comes a close second.

Otherwise, a rather mediocre but noticeably shorter Oscar night.  Till next year…..

The full LIST:  Winners are indicted with asterisks.

Best Picture:

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book” ***

“A Star Is Born”

Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” ***
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” ***
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book” ***
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk” ***
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”


Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” ***
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Animated Feature:

“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman ***

Animated Short:

“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi ***
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez

Adapted Screenplay:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee ***
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Original Screenplay:

“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly ***
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay


“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón ***
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

Best Documentary Feature:

“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ***
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi ***

Best Live Action Short Film: 
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv ***

Best Foreign Language Film:

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico) ***
“Shoplifters” (Japan)

Film Editing:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman ***
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin

Sound Editing:

“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst ***
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Sound Mixing:

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” ***
“First Man”
“A Star Is Born”

Production Design:

“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler ***
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard ***
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Original Song:

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice   ***
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Makeup and Hair:

“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Vice” ***

Costume Design:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter ***
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne

Visual Effects:

“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man” ***
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”


2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts- Live Action (Reviews)

2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Live Action)  **** Highly Recommended

Oscar nominated shorts will be screened at the Bell Lightbox from now (Feb 8th) till Oscar Presentation Day – on February the 24th.  There are 3 categories – animated; live action and live action documentary.

Watching shorts is a real treat and less tiring than watching a full length feature. Plus, not knowing what these shorts are about, one will surely be in for a nice surprise as well.

One thing about this program of shorts is that they are the most gut wrenching.  The subjects of two of these involve children, boys before the age of puberty.  DETAINMENT and FAUVE are two my favourites for the fact that they are both totally engrossing from start to finish.  Total length of this program around 109 minutes.  

All the shorts are about delinquent kids except one that is centred on a senior.


DETAINMENT (UK 2018) *****Top 10

Directed Vincent Lambe

Liverpool, England.  A baby has been murdered.  Caught on video surveillance are two boys and friends, suspect for the murder.  Each are questioned by the police act different locations in the presence of their moms, as the interrogation tears away the layers of lies to reveal what really happened.  DETAINMENT is harrowing because it is hardly imaginable that murder could be committed by two young lads and that test Live -Action short.  The actors playing John and his mother deserve Oscars for their vivd portrayals.  DETAINMENT gets my vote as the best of the program.

FAUVE (Canada 2018) ***** Top 10
Directed by Jeremy Compte

FAUVE sees two mischievous boy playing a game of points to see who wins by coming up with  6 points first.  The game consists of showing who is the toughest one.  The game leads the boys to a quarry where one is pushed into grey mud that functions like deadly quicksand.  This scene is extremely well filmed.  In a moment, the fun and games turn into tragedy while the two pubescent boys learn go through their rites-of-passage.  The  figure of the fox that appears to the boys serves as a metaphor that makes the proceedings all the more chilling.  A difficult but excellent watch!

MADRE (Spain 2018) ***

Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen

A single mother while with her mother received a call from hr 7-year old son vacationing with his father on some beach in France.  The child is concerned that the dad has not returned and have left him alone for a while.  Things get worse, when pedophile goes after the boy.  All the terror is conveyed through the cell to the madre who is at wit’s end as to what to do.  It is a neat concept of terror conveyed through talk but the open ended ending is a disappointment.

MARGUERITE (Canada 2017) ***
Directed by Marianne Farley

It is never too late to come out.  The film begins innocently enough with a nurse washing an elderly lady.  The friendship develops both to disclose secrets and longings.  The short shows the trails of growing old and the need to come to terms with the past and present.  Sad and happy at the same time!

SKIN (USA 2018) ****

Directed by Guy Nattiv

SKIN is the most disturbing of all the shorts about kids.  There are two difficult to watch scenes.  One is the brutal beating of a black man for no reason that takes place in front of the victim and attacker’s two sons in  parking lot.  SKIN is about a skinhead family.  The second scene has the father reaching the son how to use a weapon as it it was a toy.  The skinhead father finally gets what is coming to him in a climax that would leave the audience satisfied.

Film Review: RUBEN BRANDT, Collector (Hungary 2018) ***1/2

Ruben Brandt, Collector Poster

A psychotherapist suffers violent nightmares inspired by legendary works of art. Four of his patients, expert thieves, offer to steal the works, since he believes that once he owns them, …See full summary »


Milorad Krstic


Milorad Krstic (screenplay), Milorad Krstic | 1 more credit »

RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR the film is so called as it is named after the two famed painters.  RUBEN BRANDT is one of the recent sprout of films on artists.

The film begins with a priceless fan stolen from the Louvre in Paris.  The backward somersaulting Mimi is the thief and an elaborate car chase takes place along the streets of Paris with Inspector Kowalski in pursuit.  The story is eventually revealed that Mimi is one of the patients of a psychotherapist who suffers from nightmares where famous paintings come to life (Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita or Boticelli’s Venus) to kill him.  His therapy theory is to own the problem and thus cure it.  He recruits his patients to steal the rare paintings that haunt him taking the audience  around the animated worlds of the famous museums of the Guggenheim to the Louvre to the Tate Modern.

The film’s animation is no Pixar or Disney but is of a different style that celebrates painters, particularly Picasso.  Many characters in the film have cuboid faces, with many containing three eyes or two mouths.  Director also loves to play with swaying shadows, giving his film a distinct artistic look.  The film contains a few scenes of graphic violence, acceptable as the target audience for the animated feature is adults and not children.

The spectacular car chase at the start of the film demands mention.  The chase is animated as if the camera was placed on the dashboard of a real car during the chase giving the sequence a realistic while stylistic look.  The background of the chase encompasses shops and lots of steps looking very much like typical Paris in a painting,

As with the T-shirt worn by one inconsequential person proclaiming “I Love Nothing”, the film contains a lot of ‘nothing’ humour.  These include the numerous innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of the car chase.  But the most notable of these nothings is a three-minute inconsequential sequence dedicated to a mosquito.  The camera shows the animated mosquito. looking very much like a real one,  drawing blood from the arm of Inspector Kowalski.  The mosquito is subsequently smashed and killed with his saying: “He was the first to draw blood.”  Not really a funny or meaningful segment by the director but by no means a less entertaining one.  Such are the film’s pleasures.

But the single and most hilarious scene is when the therapist conducts a session involving role playing around a fire.  Each patient is required to play the role with one complaining about having to play Little Red Riding Hood.  The therapist insists he plays her for his problem is being too timid and unable to relate in an office work situation.

The film has an amazing soundtrack that includes music and songs from American country and western to contemporary to classical.  There are lots of classic film references from Hitchcock to the director’s own short he directed.  Stay for the end credits as all the references are lists as well as all the paintings and painters where are the inspirations or lookalikes in the film are taken from.

For a 66-year old director whose first film is this stunning, one can only eagerly await for his next project.  This might surely be a Best Animated Best Feature Oscar nominee for next year.


Full Review: CLIMAX (France 2018) ****

Climax Poster

French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.


Gaspar Noé


Gaspar Noé

French auteur Gaspar Noé excited audiences with his first two films, the excellent CARNE and the sequel SEUL CONTRE TOUS which were both an hour or so long.  But Noé pushed the limits with ENTER THE VOID and IRREVERSIBLE and he continues to do so with his new film CLIMAX about a troupe of dancers on acid.

What can one do with a troupe of real dancers?  Noé proves that more than everything can be done.  His film can be divided into 5 parts – the interviews; the group dance; the mingling of the dancers; the individual dances; the sex that occurs after the acid takes effect and the climax (aftermath).   Even if all else fails, the dance choreography is so good, many done with one long take, that watching these dance segments is worth more than the ticket price.  I myself, would watch the film again just for the dance sequences.

The film begins with the dancers being interviewed by an unseen male and female interviewer.  This sequence takes about 15 minutes and the audience sees the obsession of the dancers. “Dance is everything.” “I will commit suicide if I cannot dance.”  “I would do anything to be able to dance in the troupe.”  To the last comment, Noé pursues the implications further, bringing light to the current sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, but with an intelligent difference.  The two dancers who make the identical last comment are probed further to the point that their sexual offers might be accepted.  Noé uses the males instead of the females to be accosted and the possible guilty party to be one male and one female.

The troupe’s dance number is nothing short of stunning.  Forget the dances in any other television show or dance movie.   This is the real thing – real dance from the streets, expertly choreographed by gifted dancers.

When the dancers start mingling, the audience discovers more about each individual, their sexual orientation, who each has the hots for and how one might be related to another.  This is the time the dancers take to the spiked sangria. The LSD (acid)  takes about a hour to take effect.

The film breaks out into dance again.  This time it is individual dance where each dancer is given the chance to perform solo.  Noé uses the overhead shot.  The camera displaced above and each dancer moves in a and then out of the spot, with the dance performance seen from a bird’s eye view.  It is uncommon to shoot dance numbers this way, but it is nevertheless inventive and effective.

The last two segments are not so easy to watch.  Once the dancers start to feel the effect of the drug, their emotions come loose and sex begins leading to the films climax which unfortunately is not so entertaining as the dance sequences.   Noé’s camera goes upside down with lighting going on and off so that not every scene can be deciphered clearly.

Noé never fails to shock and to push his filming limits.  CLIMAX shows Noé at one of his most effective, disturbing though not disgusting.


Full Review: GRETA (Ireland/USA 2018) ***

Greta Poster


Neil Jordan


Ray Wright (screenplay by), Neil Jordan (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Some films are best if seen without any prior knowledge of the plot.  Neil Jordan’s GRETA is one of them.  As in Jordan’s THE CRYING GAME, the shock occurs when the girl the protagonist is having sex with suddenly is shown with a penis.  The big surprise secret comes literally out of the closet at the 30-minus mark of Jordan’s latest psychological thriller GRETA.  

Set in NYC, Isabelle Huppert plays a widow (the film’s original title was THE WIDOW) developing a friendship with a naïve young woman, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz).  Frances returns the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner, Greta (Huppert).  The scene in the subway station in Manhattan was shot at Bay Station, Toronto.  It is ironical that the Transit’s Lost and Found in Toronto is located at this Bay Station.  Frances recently lost her mother and feels alienated by her father (Colm Meaney); Greta has lost her husband, and her daughter lives far away.   The two become fast friends much to the consternation of her best friend Erika (Maika Monroe).  Erika turns out to be a bigger part in the story than envisioned.

Unfortunately, the film ends with a totally unlikely twist in the plot that could only happen in a one in a million chance.  This spoils an otherwise excellent thriller.

Still all things given, having seen the film twice, there are many pleasures derived from GRETA.  One are the excellent performances by the two leads, Huppert and Moretz.  Huppert is sufficiently creepy and nasty, a character the audience would love to hate, contrasting the innocent character of Frances who is so naive as to return a handbag with the cash intact.

Another pleasure is the campy dialogue, obviously written to bring the audience up to the type of talk of the present.  When Frances tells Erika of returning the wad of money found in the handbag, Erika remarks on use of the money  “Spa or colonic?”  Erika continues that a friend who had colonic can now recite the alphabet backwards.  When Frances later declines an outing invite from Erika, Erika’s retort is: “Am I snorting meth or you are telling me you are going dog shopping with the old lady?.”   And another instance, Erika warns Frances: “The crazier they are, the more clinging they are.”  The use of the chewing gum metaphor is also funny, “sticking around”.

As expected in a Jordan film, the film contains some very nasty (though camp) sequences.  One is when Frances uses the cookie cutter to slice off Greta’s finger.  Huppert is so good in her role as the menacing predator, that any audience member would also gladly slice off her finger.  The camera quickly focuses on the blood spurting vertically out from the severed finger – a deliciously camp moment.

The film is largely shot in Toronto around the Bay Subway Station area.  Those who live downtown  will immediately recognize the familiar streets and buildings.

Though one can tell was will happen in this predictable horror fare, GRETA is still guilty pleasure due largely to Jordan’s flare for the weird.



How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Poster

When Hiccup discovers Toothless isn’t the only Night Fury, he must seek “The Hidden World”, a secret Dragon Utopia before a hired tyrant named Grimmel finds it first.


Dean DeBlois


Dean DeBloisCressida Cowell (based upon the “How to Train Your Dragon” book series by)

Two years after the first sequel, Toothless the dragon and Hiccup the dragon trainer , along with their fellow dragon riders and friends, continue to rescue captured dragons in order to bring them back to Berk and create a bustling dragon and human utopia.  Unfortunately, their efforts have also resulted in the island becoming severely overpopulated with dragons. In a response to the overcrowding, Hiccup desires to find the “Hidden World”, a safe haven for dragons that his late father Stoick told him about.  Meanwhile, a white Fury dragon, held captive by warlords, is given to infamous dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly as bait for him to capture Toothless for the warlords’ use as an alpha.

Toothless discovers the white Fury (dubbed a “Light Fury” by Astrid) in the woods and the two quickly become enchanted with each other until the Light Fury, sensing Hiccup’s nearby presence, flees. Hiccup and Tuffnut later discover Grimmel’s dragon traps in the area. Grimmel visits Hiccup that night, but Hiccup has prepared an ambush to capture him; Grimmel escapes, burning down Hiccup’s house and part of Berk in the process. In response, Hiccup rallies the citizens and dragons to leave Berk on a quest to find the Hidden World and safety from dragon hunters.

The rest of the plot is silliness and uninspired writing from director DuBlois.  There is the climatic fight between Grimmel and Hiccup while Fury and Toothless fall in love.  The Hidden World is now the place the dragons reside without their masters, now humans and dragons in their own worlds till the next sequel.

What is lacking in plot an story is more than made up by special effects and solid animation.  Often there is too much going on-screen than meets the eye.  The film is best seen in 3-D IMAX but the screening I saw was in normal 2-D.  Still the film looks stupendous.  The humour is only slight and could do with a lot more funnier.  The dialogue comes off as ‘cute and amusing’ at best.

Jay Baruchel does a good voice characterization as Hiccup as does F. Murray Abraham as the villain Grimmel.  But the best of all voices come from comedienne Kristen Wiig as the annoying Tuffnut.  The dragons do not speak so no voices from Toothless or Fury.  The filmmakers seem to oddly love the Vikings speaking with a Scots accent.

The film turns too romantic and sappy, especially with two twin romantic couples – Hiccup and Astrid and the dragons Toothless and Fury.  The dragon  matingis overextended and silly.  Worse still, the film goes on several years into the future when each couple show up complete with overcute offspring.

The film will likely take over the box-office #1 spot this weekend.  The film has already broken even making $175 million internationally at the time of writing, more than its $129 million budget and it has not even opened in North America.


Film Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS (Todos lo Saben) (Spain/France/Italy 2018) ***

Todos lo saben Poster

Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.


Asghar Farhadi

Two time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s (A SEPARATION, THE PAST) latest and one of his weakest entries shows the Iranian director treading water in familiar territory.  The popular  saying ‘we have all see it before’ hails true.

A SEPARATION and THE PAST, Farhadi’s two best films shows family drama about broken relationships told in the form of a whodunit.  The opposite is recognizable in EVERYBODY KNOWS.  Who, close to the family planned the kidnapping of the teen daughter?  The kidnapping is an excuse for the family drama that unfolds which also reveals a skeleton in the closet for the audience but one that all the characters in the story already know – hence the film title EVERYBODY KNOWS.

The film begins with the arrival from Argentina to Spain of Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her two children for her sister’s wedding.  During the wedding, there is an electricity blackout during which teen daughter Irene (Carla Camra) is drugged and kidnapped.  The rest of the film functions as the whodunit until Irene is finally set free at the end of the film.

It turns out that a ransom is to be paid and Paco (Javier Barden), a family friend has the access of funds to pay the ransom.   The EVERYBODY KNOWS secret is that Paco and Laura had an affair in the past though Laura is married  now to Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) who is conveniently not around  so that the two can rekindle their past passions.  It also turns out that Irene is Paco’s daughter which serves more incentive for him to get the money to pay off the ransom.  There is even more unnecessary drama not entirely related to the plot.  Irene is a feisty girl who wants to elope with a handsome local teen.

Farhadi has gained the reputation of directing films in a language he cannot speak like Spanish in this Spanish entry or French in THE PAST.  This must surely not be an asset though the director has done pretty well in the past.  He now appears to glide through films in different countries like a tourist.  EVERYBODY KNOWS looks like a tourist ad for Spain with its sunny weather and gorgeous vineyards.

The film boasts stars Bardem and Cruz, a big boost for Farhadi as his films never had the privilege of such big internationally known stars before.  But Cruz is quite awful transforming from happy and cheery celebrating her sister’s wedding and reuniting with friends to worried and howling mother after her daughter is kidnapped.  Bardem fares better as the rough bohemian love interest.  (Cruz and Bardem are real life wife and husband.)

The film ends up more a successful family drama and less a satisfying whodunit.  The guilty kidnappers are revealed at the end, and they seem to get away with the deed while the poor victimized family continue to suffer.

The film opened the Cannes competition in 2018 and has so far received so-so favourable reviews from critics.


Film Review: 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Documentary) **** Highly Recommended

Oscar nominated shorts will be screened at the Bell Lightbox from now (Feb 8th) till Oscar Presentation Day – on February the 24th.  There are 3 categories – animated; live action and live action documentary.

Watching shorts is a real treat and less tiring than watching a full length feature. Plus, not knowing what these shorts are about, one will surely be in for a nice surprise as well.

One thing about this program of shorts is that they are true stories about life and hardships.  The subjects of these docs are as different as night and day and range from the U.K. to India and Africa.  These are docs are both educational and entertaining and most will leave one teary-eyed as well.  Total length of program around 140 minutes.

BLACK SHEEP (USA 2018) ****
Directed by Ed Perkins

This gut-gut-wrenching emotional shocker has my vote for best doc short.  It all begins for rather innocently for a black kid Damilola Taylor returning from school.  A 10-year old school Nigerian boy has just been murdered in his neighbourhood.  Camilla finds his mother crying when he got home  The family move out of London (from Peckham to Essex) only for Damilola to find matters worse – in terms or racism in his new neighbourhood of all whites.  His first encounter is a young boy calling him nigger.  I understand and feel for Camilla as I experienced the same thing while in Ireland while walking when kids in a car made slanted eye faces at me.  The short works as what transpires is real and the enactment is terribly effective.  One can never predict how the narrative of the short will lead to making it even more intriguing.

END GAME (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Rob Epstien and Jeffrey Friedman

This doc follows medical practitioners and several patients as the patients live their last years of their lives.  The staff try their utmost best to make the patients comfortable and their last days meaningful., thus encouraging the audience to re-evaluate their own lives in the light of what is happening.  Many of the subjects in the film have now passed away.  END GAME is a very sad and needless to say, emotional film about life and death.

LIFEBOAT (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Skye Fitzgerald

This well intentioned short has the aim of informing audiences of the plight of refugees as they risk their lives for a better life.  The film has many disturbing scenes such as overcrowded raft lifeboats filled with refugees with their legs dangling over the side.  They have nowhere to do their business.  Many are sick with fever.  Many die  The short begins with  a search of dead bodies on a beach.  The film follows volunteers from a German non-profit organization as they risk the waves of the Mediterranean to pluck refugees from sinking rafts pushing off from Libya in the middle of the night.  LIFEBOAT puts a human face on one of the world’s greatest contemporary global crises and provides a spark of hope surrounding how civil society can intervene in the refugee crisis in a meaningful way.  Unfortunately, the narrative is fragmented resulting in the film seeming all over the place.  Still LIFEBOAT is quite the eye-opener.  This one will likely win the Oscar because its theme is the most current.


Directed by Marshall Curry

This is a short, black and white short doc that is no less disturbing for its theme.  Assembled from archive footage, A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN  details a ‘German-American Bund’ rally held at the Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939.  American Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn speaks to the gathered crowd when one man, 26-year-old Isadore Greenbaum, rushes the stage to protest the gathered National socialists.  What happens to Greenbaum is gut shattering.


Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi

This feminist (in such a good way that it will leave even the males cheering the women) short starts of on the ignorance of Indians on menstruation and slides from topic to topic ending with the manufacturing of women’s pads.  The film centres o a few Indian women from a rural village outies Delhi, India who strive to do more as women.  One wants to join the police force.  Others make, sell and market women’s pads.  This is the lightest of all the documentary shorts but no less educational, informative and entertaining.

Film Review: ISN’T IT ROMANTIC (USA 2019) ***

Isn't It Romantic Poster

A young woman disenchanted with love mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy.


Erin Cardillo (screenplay by), Dana Fox (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is a romantic comedy that is supposed to be a satire of romanic comedies.  High aspirations!  The film plunges its protagonist, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) an Australian architect living in New York City into an alternative universe of the romantic comedy.   After being mugged and bumping her head, Natalie now lives, while being aware, of this alternative PG-13 Universe with the running joke that the ‘f’ word cannot possibly be uttered.  She must escape every cliche in order to find love and live happily ever after.

Nat finds the most handsome client at the office (Liam Hemsworth) speaking Australian and falling in love with her.  Hemsworth is Australian, so for him speaking like an Aussie is no problem.  But Natalie realizes that she should be with her best friend (Adam Levine) who she had previously in her past life totally ignored.  Natalie decides to go all out to get him back.

Rebel Wilson is the slightly plump Aussie comedian that has been popping up in supporting roles in films of recent years.  She is mostly annoying than funny.  Wilson is at least tolerable in this film where she is given the main lead, turning annoying into over-endearing.  It is too obvious that she is the pitiful girl that the audience should pity and root for and in the end go head-on cheering for.

Strauss-Schulson’s film is however, not without its pleasures.  The film’s best segment tis a romantic musical number set in a Karaoke bar where Natalie shows up to the couple’s party with the full intent of stealing the groom.  They break up into an over-the-top kitsch that is unexpected and refreshing, sort of like when Rupert Everett broke out into the lip-synching song: in MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING.  A similar musical number at the film’s end however loses its punch, not being able to beat the Karaoke one.

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is described in the ads a a satirical fantasy film about romantic comedies.  A film is a satire if it tears its subject in this case the romantic comedy apart, disbelieving everything about it being true.  I generally do not consider romantic comedies as my favourite genre and I would love to see the concept of romantic comedies totally torn apart.  No such luck – ISN’T IT ROMANTIC, still falls into all the pratfalls of a rom-com.  It has a romantic happy ending, is fully predictable, the girl gets the guy she wants at the end and worst of all is filled with one cliche after another including the girl’s best friend being gay, the supportive girl’s best friend at work and a cutie pet at home.  Other examples: Natalie is passed over at work, is a decent human being and not a beauty and worst of all a bump on her head that shifts her romantic universe (the last film with this similar premise was  WHAT MEN WANT where a bump on the head gives the female protagonist the ability to hear men’s thoughts).  So there is nothing truly innovative about ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It has a premise that the script does not really know what to do with.  Isn’t it sad?

The film opens Wednesday in time for Valentine’s Day.


Film Review: 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Animated) **** Highly Recommended

Oscar nominated shorts will be screened at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto from Feb 12th until Oscar Presentation Day – on February the 24th.  There are 3 categories – animated; live action and live action documentary.

Watching shorts is a real treat and less tiring than watching a full length feature. Plus, not knowing what these shorts are about, one will surely be in for a nice surprise as well.

One thing about this program of shorts is that most of the animated shorts will leave one teary-eyes.  And for a variety of reasons – joy, sadness, loss and pure beauty.  These are animation for adults that kids can also enjoy.  Total length of program around 70 minutes.


Capsule Reviews:


Directed by Alison Snowden and David Fine

Five different animals meet with a canine therapist to discuss their inner angst and how to overcome it.  Among them is a praying mantis (who eats her partner after mating), an angry ape, a worm and a cat and a pig.  This animated shot moves fast and furious and is undoubtedly the craziest and most hilarious of all the shorts.  A bit of all over the place piece but one can forgive this fact if one laughs hard enough.

BOA (USA) ****

Directed by Domee Shi

This American production is from Disney/Pixar and will most likely be then that will win the coveted Oscar.  Set in Toronto, the animation is immediately recognizable from the subway train interior to the neighbourhood chinatown.  The story follows an aging Chinese mother suffering from empty nest syndrome.  One of her dumplings becomes her new son till it grows big and leaves hime.  BOA is a feel-good tearjerker that will definitely leave one in tears – but in a  good way.

LATE AFTERNOON (Ireland) ****
Directed by Louise Bagnall

An elderly woman Emily switches from the past and present memories in what could be Alzheimer’s.  A perfect excuse for the animator to have colours and images flow comfortably into each other resulting in a  very beautiful piece of animation.  Emily tries to piece together her life while trying too to remember what is going on at present.  Very sad and remarkably moving, LATE AFTERNOON is my favourite of all the animated shorts.


Directed by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas

This is a beautifully told animated tale of dreams coming true.  The protagonist is a little girl who lives with her shoemaker father.  She dreams of becoming an astronaut.  No wonder her name is Luna Chu.  The story unfolds from the point of view of the shoes that grow from kid’s spaceman boots to adult footwear.  Luna has problems in school, in sports but presses on till she eventually succeeds.  Teams can come true when one does not give up on them,

WEEKENDS (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Trevor Jimenez

Another animated short from the U.S. (besides BAO) in this program that is set in Toronto.  The CN Tower can be seen in the background.  On WEEKENDS, a young boy leaves his mother’s house to stay with his Japanese samurai loving father who then has custody,  The living conditions are very different.  The boy appears to enjoy both worlds.  The boy drifts into fantasy and dreams and ponders over his stay at both places together with their new partners his mother and father are dating.  Beautifully drawn and touching, WEEKENDS is a pleasure to watch.

Other shorts films shortlisted that will be screened:  

Wishing Box, dirs. Wenli Zhang and Nan Li, USA, 6 minutes, English  Tweet Tweet, dir. Zhanna Bekmambetova, Russia, 11 minutes, Language TK