From InsideOut.ca: After an overwhelmingly positive response in 2016, Inside Out is excited to partner with BravoFACT for the second Inside Out BravoFACT Pitch Competition. Five teams will be selected to pitch their short narrative film projects in front of a jury of industry experts and a live audience at the 2017 Toronto LGBT Film Festival (May 25 to June 4, 2017).
The winning team will receive a cash prize of $50,000 from BravoFACT to complete the project and will screen it at the 2018 Toronto LGBT Film Festival.
Applications for the 2017 Inside Out BravoFACT Pitch Competition are due on Friday, March 31, 2017. We are looking for teams of two who are passionate about making Canadian films for and about the LGBTQ community. Learn more about the competition and apply, here.
Against the Tide Logan Cerson (Director) and Morgana Mackenzie (Producer)
A transgender woman returns to her hometown and to her father before their tiny Newfoundland fishing village is bought out by the Canadian government.
Michael Hanley (Director) and Heidi Tan (Producer)
In a digital age where social interaction is in abundance, but true human connection is scarce, childhood friends Austin and Connor search for love.
Queen of Hearts
Lindsey Addawoo (Co-Director) and Alicia De Four (Producer)
When tragedy strikes, a powerful Queen struggles to navigate supernatural abilities tied to her emotions.
The Tragedy That Was Valerie Mallory Finkerstein
Martina Monro (Co-Producer/Co-Director) and Dacen James (Producer/Co-Director)
On the day of her best friend’s birthday, Valerie must confess her love for Ava or lose her forever.
Maxyme Tramblay (Director) and Raghda Elrayyes (Producer)
When Gail, a witty lesbian, and Connie, a bitter homophobe, find themselves cohabiting the same hospital room, their wait for organ transplants could not be more uncomfortable.
Join us on Sunday, June 4 at 11:00AM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox during the 2017 Toronto LGBT Film Festival as the finalists pitch their short narrative film projects in front of a jury of industry experts, moderated by CTV film critic Richard Crouse. Tickets for the event are FREE but can be reserved at the TIFF Box Office.
Any year that gives us the eyeball bulging thrills of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the subtle yearning of “Carol” and everything in between can’t be all bad. Sure, there were some stinkers and more nostalgia than you could shake a lightsaber at, but when I think back on 2015 I’ll remember Max’s pole riders, Lili Tomlin as the world’s fieriest grandmother, “Chewie we’re home,” Leo sleeping inside a horse and “Ex Machina’s” disco dance party.
BEST MOVIES OF 2015
The Big Short
“The Big Short” is an infuriating movie. Not because it’s poorly made but because it is so well made. It takes years of banking bafflegab and distils it down to the essence in what may be the funniest, smartest and most maddening look at why America’s housing market crashed in 2008.
Based on Michael Lewis‘ nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the film presents a cavalcade of facts and information formed into a story about how four investment-bankers—played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro—saw the financial meltdown coming when no one else did. Taking on the arrogance of Wall Street’s old boy network, they bet against the American economy and, in the process, expose an unprecedented level of financial criminality.
The movie explains that Wall Street likes to use confusing terms to make you think only they can understand what they do. “It’s like 2+2 = fish,” says one banker, expressing disbelief at the financial manipulations used by the big banks. To make the financial mumbo-jumbo sexy the McKay uses a variety of tricks, including cutting to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime loans in plain language. It’s a spoonful of sugar to help the expositional medicine go down. From the simple—one loan officer calls his clients “Ninjas, no income, no job.”—to the incredibly complex world of CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) “The Big Short” doesn’t shy away from tackling complex financial transactions but it never feels dry or forced. McKay is a showman, and layers the film with fourth-wall-breaking celebrity cameos and concise social commentary woven into the drama.
“The Big Short” features strong performances—Bale stretches in ways we haven’t seen from him before—but it is the film’s unflinching depiction of unbridled greed that will resonate.
“Brooklyn,” a new film starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s, asks a simple question: Is home where the heart is or where the marriage licence is?
Written by Nick Hornby (from a novel by Colm Tóibín) “Brooklyn” is a heartfelt coming-of-age journey that skilfully avoids any trace of mawkishness or sentimentality. A sharp script and John Crowley’s no nonsense direction are in part responsible for the movie’s tone, but the film’s beating heart is Saoirse Ronan’s remarkable performance.
As one of the great faces in movies she can speak volumes with a look, and here, as a girl whose body is in New York but heart lies in Ireland, her melancholy and homesickness is so real you can reach out and touch it. Call her Little Meryl if you like, but there is no denying the power of her work.
“Brooklyn” is a movie about decisions that makes all the right decisions. Some situations may be familiar but Ronan’s exemplarily work helps us ignore the familiar tropes as she milks every bit of emotion from a profoundly touching story.
“Carol,” a new film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a love story but one painted in shades of loneliness and longing. It’s about love at first sight and how that love that may be too good to last.
Based on a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel titled “The Price of Salt,” “Carol” is a haunting romance, elegantly directed by Todd Haynes. Blanchett and Rooney subtly play out the story, making the most of gestures and tentative looks that in most movies wouldn’t register but here convey a richness of emotion. It’s about nuance not grand gestures.
Both Blanchett and Mara do much with limited dialogue. The real performances here are happening internally and their faces and eyes convey as much as any lines of dialogue could hope to.
“Carol” is first-class filmmaking— cinematographer Ed Lachman even uses Super 16mm film stock to create the grainy feel of a 1950s period piece—with beautifully wrought, timeless performances and a love story for the ages.
How do you breathe new life into a forty-year-old film series? If you’re Albert R. Broccoli you hire Daniel Craig, but if you’re Sylvester Stallone gracefully you pass the torch. “Creed” is the “Rocky 1.0,” the evolution of a story that began in 1976.
“Creed” satisfies on two levels. One as a new, inspiring overcoming-the-odds story while simultaneously providing a nostalgic blast. It’s not a remake—although in a way it almost feels like a remake of the entire “Rocky” series—but attempts to bring the same kind fist-in-the-air triumphant feel as Stallone’s other boxing flicks.
Is it a knock-out?
With a story ripe with underdog theatrics, the signature “Rocky” swelling trumpet score and familiar characters and situations, “Creed” clicks in the part of your brain that grew up watching the “Rocky” movies on VHS. Like Otis Redding’s’s cover of “Satisfaction”, the movie feels vaguely familiar but it also has good beat and you can dance to it, so it gets a pass.
“Creed” maybe named after Michael B. Jordan’s character and ostensibly center on the young boxer, but let’s get real, this is a “Rocky” movie and Stallone is the star. He plays Balboa as a lion in winter, an old man who has trouble climbing (let alone sprinting) the 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made iconic in the first movie. It’s a poignant, engaging and moving performance that ranks as one of Stallone’s best.
For decades on “Creed” proves the blend of boxing and underdogs is still a potent mix, made better by rich performances and Stallone’s quietly affecting work.
“Ex Machina” is a high tech thriller that by and large ignores the tech to get down to the nitty gritty. Director and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously scripted “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”) places the story firmly in the world of artificial intelligence and then showcases the humanity (or lack thereof) of his characters, both flesh-and-blood and robotic.
With the cool austerity of Stanley Kubrick director Garland creates the antiseptic world of Bateman’s lair. Clinical and precise, it’s a stark backdrop for a sci fi story that is more concerned with ideas than special effects. It’s a “Frankenstein” story that is, as Bateman says, not interested in what people are thinking, but how people think.
Oscar Isaac once again proves to be a quiet but potent on-screen force as Bateman, always the smartest guy in the room, but one lacking the interpersonal skills to truly connect with people. Domhnall Gleeson (who will next be seen alongside Isaac in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) is sympathetic and determined but it is Alicia Vikander who really impresses. She’s equal parts warmth and chilly precision as a robot who wants more than to be a machine.
“Ex Machina” is being presented as sci fi, but it really is a human drama; a human drama where the main character has a fibre optic nervous system.
If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head—and who hasn’t?—the Pixar film “Inside Out” tries to provide some answers.
Loosely based on the mood swings of director Pete Docter’s 12-year-old daughter it’s an action adventure set in the subconscious of a young girl.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as an instant classic but “Inside Out” is the best argument for creating the term I’ve come across for some time.
From dazzling animation, to a script that toggles between childlike wonder and ingenious introspection “Inside Out” is glued together with a degree of emotional acumen not often found in mainstream film.
In other words, it will make you laugh, cry and think.
“Inside Out” is a film that will deepen with repeat viewings, which is probably a good thing as when it hits Blu-ray kids are going to want to watch it again and again, and for once, parents won’t mind joining in.
Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s been thirty years since there was a new “Mad Max” movie but “Fury Road” was worth the wait. The years have not stilled director George Miller’s restless camera or his outrageous way with steampunk influenced design or character names. If Imperator Furiosa isn’t the best character name of the year, I don’t know what is. Her title, however, might as well have been Mad Maxine as she is more the focus of the story than the titular character.
Tom Hardy pulls his weight as Max. His powerful physicality mixed with a haunted look—maybe we should call him Passive Aggressive Max—and gearbox permanently shifted to survival makes him an imposing center of the film, but it is Charlize Theron who dominates.
As Furiosa she lives up to her name as a force to be reckoned with. She’s a one-armed bandit (literally) who not only provides much of the action in the film, but its heart as well.
The real star, however, is Miller. Thirty years after he last played in Mad Max’s world he revisits it with a film that doesn’t feel like a sequel or a reboot, but a fresh look at an familiar character. His off-the-wall sensibility and demented Hot Wheels style designs give the movie a look and feel that no other director could replicate
Like “All the President’s Men,” the new Michael Keaton drama is a story about newspaper reporters taking on the establishment. Instead of going after the highest office in the land, as Woodward and Bernstein did in their Watergate exposé, in “Spotlight” Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams play Boston Globe reporters delving into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of abusive priests.
“Spotlight” is set just fourteen years ago, but feels of another age. The internet has, by and large, rendered this kind of methodical reporting obsolete. The door knocking, working-the-phones investigation with months to form and write stories is now the kind of thing that exists only in the movies. We see it all here in detail and much of it is very interesting. The reporter’s investigation allows for huge loads of exposition in the form of interviews with witnesses and victims and exports and while there’s a bit too much, “Are you telling me..?” the slow and steady unveiling of details is compelling stuff.
Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy keeps it simple and straightforward, allowing the occasional “gotcha!” revelations speak for themselves. Clues and information are uncovered slowly, with a minimum of red herrings. The result is portrait of the kind of grunt work the Spotlight team used to break the story, not nearly as flashy or verbose as Aaron Sorkin’s overwritten and over sentimentalized look at news gathering, “The Newsroom.”
“Spotlight” is a refreshingly barebones movie that allows the story to provide the fireworks.
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
There’s good news for Star Wars fans. The initials in director J.J. Abrams’s name definitely do not stand for Jar Jar. His take on the “Star Wars” universe does everything the much-maligned prequels did not; that is it focuses on character and adventure not treaties or political dealings. It delivers a nostalgic blast while at the same time offering a new hope that the series can be freshened up.
Abrams gets away from the political bafflegab that made the prequels such a chore. Instead he returns to the basics, good vs. evil, fathers and sons, keeping it on track as an action-adventure with great characters.
Rey is the female lead everyone has been waiting for Marvel to make a movie about. Abrams beat them to the punch. She’s powerful, human, self-sufficient — “Don’t take my hand,” she snarls at Finn as he tries to lead her to safety — and would never even consider wearing a gold bikini.
As a Stormtrooper who finds redemption, Finn is the catalyst for much of the film’s action. He’s a little bit goofy, a lot brave and in over his head but because he thinks with his heart and not his head he’s a welcome, charming presence.
Poe Dameron has the swagger of a young Han Solo while BB-8 has personality plus and purrs like a cat. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is a robed evildoer prone to childish temper tantrums.
Connecting these new characters to the universe are legends from the past, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia (Carrie Fisher).
Teaming Solo, Chewie and the Millennium Falcon provides an undeniable nostalgic rush but they are here as more than just cameos to pay tribute to the past.
Ford’s Spencer Tracy-esque vibe allows him the gravitas to utter lines like “The galaxy is counting on us,” while sidekick Chewie says much without actually speaking words. Leia has a smaller role, but it’s a blast to see Ford and Fisher, both looking age appropriate, together again.
Their first meeting exemplifies the movie’s playful tone. “You’ve changed your hair,” Hans says to his old flame, noticing her famous bagel hair buns are gone. What could have been a grand reunion is underplayed and instead the call back to the past is presented as a warm moment between two old friends.
It’s that kind of warmth and humanity that separates “The Force Awakens” from other big budget blockbuster entertainment. The finale is big and loud like the Marvel movies but unlike “The Avengers” films Abrams keeps the emotional core alive right up until the end.
It’s the right mix of space-opera-cool and character that will please the hard-core fans that see this as just another piece of a much larger puzzle but also works as a standalone story as well.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a blast, nostalgic and otherwise.
Straight Outta Compton
“Straight Outta Compton,” the new biopic of original gangster rap band N.W.A. and their turbulent rise and fall, is at once a very specific look at the birth of a musical genre and a universal music industry story about how money, ego and bad management will break a band a part faster than you can say, “Boyz-N-The Hood.”
“Straight Outta Compton” plays like dozens of music bios that came before but despite featuring music industry clichés—sometimes the clichés of cheating managers, ego and excess are clichés because they’re true—it spends more time on the characters than the situation. It’s funnier and warmer than you might anticipate a movie about the ferocious and profane beginnings of gangster rap, a music born out of frustration and a need to be heard, but the emotional truth of the film is based in the relationship between the leads, particularly Dre, Eazy and Cube. A palpable sense of camaraderie is present throughout, and it grounds the film during its more excessive moments.
At two-and-a-half hours “Straight Outta Compton” is a detailed look at the band that, although it takes liberties with the facts in favour of drama, grabs the rhythm of the time by the throat and doesn’t let go. Echoes of the Rodney King trial reverberate throughout the film giving the movie, in light of Black Lives Matter, a timely feel that showcases the prescient nature of Ice Cube’s rhymes.
Bloody and by times bloody terrifying, every frame of “Crimson Peak” drips with Guillermo del Toro’s Grand-Guignol sensibility. Madness and murder are front and center, coupled with arch performances—Chastain in particular embodies the Hammer Horror style of wild-eye-acting—and the director’s flawless instinct for creating unease in the audience. It’s a transport to another world, a place where the ground seeps red and old houses moan in the wind. With atmosphere to burn it’s an operatic companion piece to “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” that plays like a fever dream.
It would be easy to write “It Follows” off as a teen horror, but it is much more than that. It’s a study — and a creepy one at that — of teen angst filtered through primal dread — fear of the dark, being alone, apparitions — and physical fear. An anxiety inducing synthesizer score adds to the atmosphere of unease, making this one of the most unsettling and original horror movies of the year.
“Sicario” (it means “hitman” in Spanish) begins with a tightly wound sequence and doesn’t go slack for the next ninety minutes. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a slow burn of a film, deliberately paced, that weaves complex quasi-morality with a sense of hopelessness into an edge of your seat story.
The summer movie season began amid doom and gloom. I don’t mean George Miller’s filling screens with his dystopian vision of the future in Mad Max: Fury Road or the career ending fallout from the Sony hack. No, I mean the sky-is-falling predictions that circulated about the movie business.
Box office is down! No one goes to the movies anymore! And best of all: Movies are dead!
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I’m happy to say the reports of the death of cinema have been greatly exaggerated. The summer box office of 2015 will go down in the record books as the second-biggest in history with almost seven billion dollars generated by Minions, Ant-Man, Mad Max, dinosaurs and a sad little girl named Riley.
Superheroes helped put bums in seats, but 2015 won’t be remembered as the Year of Ultron. Now that the summer silly season is over, a definite trend toward female-driven movies like Trainwreck, Pitch Perfect 2 and Spy showed that, as Amy Schumer told me, Hollywood has finally realized “our money works, too. Our banks also accept the female dollar.”
But it wasn’t just women going to the movies. With Jurassic World pulling in 1.6 billion samolians worldwide, it seems everyone put down the remote and went to the cinema.
We didn’t rush out to everything — cash grabs like Ted 2 and Terminator: Genisys flopped — but the naysayers, the folks who, in January, were declaring movies to be a thing of the past, an old outmoded form of entertainment in the digital age, missed the point.
People flocked to the movies in huge numbers this summer, filling seats and studio bank accounts, not simply to sit in air conditioning for a few hours as relief from the summer heat or to dine out on popcorn and Twizzlers, but to engage in an age-old ritual.
Of course, you can watch movies at home or on your phone. New technology has made it easier than ever to enjoy a film from the comfort of your coach on a 60-inch screen with surround sound and healthy, homemade snacks, but no matter what set-up you may have in your living room, the thing missing is the ancient practice of sharing entertainment with a large group of strangers. It’s a primal thing, hard-wired into our DNA, that dates back to when tribes of cave dwellers would sit around fires and tell stories through to the Globe Theatre, vaudeville, the talkies and right up to today’s IMAX and AUX screenings.
People have gathered to be entertained since there were tales to be told because there is no better way to enjoy the storytelling experience than surrounded by strangers who are laughing, crying, gasping— whatever — in response to a shared event.
No matter how large your TV or comfortable your sofa, home viewing misses the magical element of community. In the theatre you’re getting the sound and the picture the director intended, but more than that the experience brings people together, inspires conversation, respect and triggers actual physical interaction with others. Try that as you stream a movie on your iPhone.
Of course, as in any other community there are a few troublemakers — texters, seat kickers — but I spend more time in theatres than most and find the pros far outweigh any negatives.
In the era of home entertainment the idea of going to the movies may sound old fashioned or quaint but I like the way English novelist Angela Carter described watching a film in a theatre. She called it “dreaming the same dream in unison” and that, for me will never go out of style.
Pete Docter, the visionary director of Pixar’s Up, Monsters, Inc. and Inside Out, joined host Richard Crouse in March for this onstage discussion of his extraordinary career in animation and screenwriting.
Actress Phyllis Smith has had many jobs in and out of show business.
She was working as a casting associate when director Ken Kwapis fell in love with the way she read opposite the auditioning actors and cast her as Dunder Mifflin saleswoman Phyllis on The Office. She appeared on the hit show for nine years and just as that series wound down she got a call from Pixar.
Inside Out producer Jonas Rivera was flicking around the stations one night when he settled on Bad Teacher, a 2011 comedy co-starring Smith and Cameron Diaz. The raunchy film couldn’t be further afield of Pixar’s family friendly movies, but Rivera liked the sound of Smith’s voice. He knew she was the actor to play one of Inside Out’s main roles, the living embodiment of an emotion in an eleven-year-old girl’s head.
“He picked up the phone and called [director] Pete Docter and said, ‘I think I’ve found our Sadness,’” recalls Smith. “I guess it was the timidity in that scene and the timbre of my voice. That’s the nice thing about working for Pixar, when you get that call they pretty much already know what they want.”
Smith joins an all-star cast — Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler as Fear, Anger, Disgust and Joy respectively — in a film that Variety called, “the greatest idea the toon studio [Pixar] has ever had.”
“Long after we’re gone people will still be watching,” Smith says. “Sort of like the Wizard of Oz.”
Smith, who is much more gregarious in person than her onscreen persona would suggest, is riding high today but it was a long circuitous route to television and film success.
“I started out as a professional dancer,” she says. “A show dancer. No stripping, but there were plumes, feathers, g-strings and all that. I was also in two ballet companies, a jazz company. That was my passion but I had an injury and knew logically it was time for me to make a switch in my career. I was getting older. So I just did what I had to do to pay my bills.”
She worked as a receptionist, an NFL cheerleader and manned the box office at a Los Angeles movie theatre. She dressed as Marilyn Monroe and played Steve Carell’s mother in a deleted scene from The 40-Year Old Virgin, but one job stands out for her.
“I worked for JC Penny in the warehouse tagging the merchandise,” she remembers. “I used to stand there and tag thousands of fishing lures or bowling balls or roller shades, which were heavy as heck to lift around. The people were great to work with but the merchandise was a little challenging.
“I used to stand there, thinking about life, wondering what it is we all have in common because we’re not all given the same opportunity. Some people’s health is impaired when they’re born while others are charmed with intelligence or looks. I thought, ‘There has to be something that we all have. A commonality.’ I figured out that it’s the ability to love. We all, in some form or another, want to love and be loved. That was my big revelation. My lightbulb moment. Also, if you’re standing on a concrete floor, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes or you’ll pay for it later.”
If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head—and who hasn’t?—the new Pixar film “Inside Out” tries to provide some answers. Loosely based on the mood swings of director Pete Docter’s twelve-year-old daughter it’s an action adventure set in the subconscious of a young girl.
The set up is simple. A Minnesotan family, Mom (voice of Diane Lane), Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) and eleven-year-old daughter Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), leave their comfortable Midwestern life behind in favour of business opportunities in San Francisco. Riley leaves behind her friends, her school and her beloved hockey team; everything she’s ever known.
Plopped down in a new city, homesick and surrounded by new people, she becomes moody. She’s completely guided by her emotions, which happen to run things from Headquarters, located deep inside her thinking box. In these San Fran days and nights Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) rule the roost, while Joy (Amy Poehler) tries to hold things together. Navigating Riley’s cerebrum, Joy journeys through long term and core memories, the Islands of Personality and Dream Productions to realize it takes a variety of emotions to make a balanced life.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as an instant classic but “Inside Out” is the best argument for creating the term I’ve come across for some time. From dazzling animation, to a script that toggles between childlike wonder and ingenious introspection “Inside Out” is glued together with a degree of emotional acumen not often found in mainstream film. In other words, it will make you laugh, cry and think.
Like the best of Pixar’s work—“Toy Story,” “Up,” “WALL-E”—“Inside Out” works on multiple levels. It is, first and foremost a family film designed to entertain everyone from the young’uns to grandma, but it’s also simultaneously a flight of fancy and a grounded story about growing up that kids (and anyone who has ever been a kid) will relate to. The movie may deal with abstract thought, but the idea that without sadness there can be no joy, and vice versa, is clear as day.
“Inside Out” is a film that will deepen with repeat viewings, which is probably a good thing as when it hits Blu Ray kids are going to want to watch it again and again, and for once, parents won’t mind joining in.