Monthly Archives: November, 2014

2014 Grey Cup Preview

Grey Cup

This weekend will mark the 102nd Grey Cup. Yes, even though us Canadians like celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, we also celebrate Grey Cup Sunday where we salute our own football league and we crown our own champions. Plus an extra excuse to pig out on munchies. Yes, one of the best things about being Canadian is we can hold two football parties in the year.

The 102nd Grey Cup is especially exciting because Vancouver is hosting! Interesting how we only get a three-year wait for hosting the Cup. Well it’s interesting to know the last time we hosted, we started a streak. The streak being consecutive Grey Cups won by the host city. Crazy thing is that we will mark the end of that streak this year because the Lions lost in the playoffs! Yes, a bit of a downer. Besides how did we end up playing for the East division semis anyways?

This year’s Grey Cup is called the ‘Roar On The Shore.’ Lots of festivities are planned to happen even as soon as Thursday. A parade of course will happen Saturday morning. The Cup has Dallas Smith and Nikki Yanofsky planned to sing the national anthem. This is a welcome back for Nikki as she is famous for singing I Believe: the official song of the Vancouver Olympics. The big surprise is that an American band, the Imagine Dragons, are halftime show performers. This is the first Grey Cup in seven years where a non-Canadian act provides the halftime show entertainment. I don’t know about you but I don’t think it’s right having a non-Canadian performer for the halftime show.

This has been a unique year for the CFL. For one thing, the league returned to nine teams as Ottawa came back with a new team, the RedBlacks, and Winnipeg returned to the Western division like they should. Also unique is how many miles ahead the West is over the East. Just look at the regular season stats yourself.

Grey CupAs for the actual game, the West will be represented by the Calgary Stampeders. The East will be represented by the Hamilton TigerCats. One’s a finalist from last year, one’s a finalist from two years ago. One won their last Grey Cup six years ago. The other won their last one fifteen years ago. Both finished their regular season top of their division but one was the top of the league. And both teams’ head coaches have won at least one Grey Cup in the past.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Already it’s fair to say that the Calgary Stampeders are the CFL team of the year. The Stampeders finished the regular season with the best record of all CFL teams with 15 wins and only three losses. Also this looks to be Jon Cornish’s year as he has become one of the biggest standouts of the CFL this year.

Right now it’s hard to find a flaw in them that could cause me to think they’d lose the Grey Cup. Especially since they won their division finals game against the Edmonton Eskimos by a huge margin: 43-18. Particularily remarkable since the Stampeders won both their regular season games against them but by 28-13 and 41-34.

However we should also know there are no guarantees in sport. We should also keep in mind that yes, the Stampeders beat the TiCats in both their regular season games but both wins were close ones: 10-7 and 30-20. We should also keep in mind is that the TiCats’ last loss to the Stampeders would be their turning point to becoming better and more victorious over the remainder of the season. The Stampeders know how to win against the TiCats, no doubt about that. The question is can they deliver on Sunday?

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

The Tiger-Cats had the misfortune of a tough season opening: they lost six of their first seven games. However they had a big turnaround that started on Labor Day with a win against the Toronto Argonauts and things got better and better for them by winning eight of their last eleven regular season games. They finished the season with nine wins and nine losses like the Montreal Allouetes but they finished at the top of the Western division because of point differentials.

The TiCats showed they can really deliver now as they were able to win the Eastern final against the Allouetes 40-24. And the Allouetes were one of the teams they lost to during their ‘losing streak’ early this season.

No doubt the TiCats are the most improved team of the CFL but the question his have they improved enough to rival the Stampeders? We should keep in mind that Calgary was not only team of the year during regular season but regular season also showed a near-dominance of the West in overall league stats. In face Hamilton may have finished top of the East with nine wins and nine losses but nine wins and losses is also the same stat of the BC Lions: the team that finished fourth in the West. In fact Hamilton has lost at least one game to all five West teams. This lagging behind of the East could become prevalent on Sunday.

THE BIG GAME AND MY PREDICTION

This is going to be a toughie. Sure Calgary beat Hamilton in both regular season games. But Hamilton improved greatly after their second loss to Calgary. However I’m not going to make the same mistake I made with the World Cup semi-final where I predicted Brazil would beat Germany 1-0. I couldn’t have been wronger. So I will trust my instinct and predict the Calgary Stampeders to win 38-20. This will make it the fourth Grey Cup for coach John Hufnagel.

And there you go. That’s my Grey Cup prediction. Funny how Grey Cup is second to Canada Day in terms of Canadian patriotism. Kickoff is 3pm Vancouver time Sunday. Stay toond!

Movie Review: Mommy

Mommy is an impressive story about a troubled son, a mother's iron will and a friend willing to help them all out.

Mommy is an impressive story about a troubled son, a mother’s iron will and a friend willing to help them all out.

I was hoping to see Mommy at this year’s VIFF. It was one of those films I really wanted to see. Unfortunately there was only one showing–I think it was the only film that had a single showing– and this was not open to volunteers and tickets sold out days before. Fortunately I was able to see it when it came out in theatres shortly after. I’m very glad I did.

The film begins telling us it’s 2105 and Canada is under a newly elected administration that has passed a controversial new law. The law states that government agencies can now decide the fate of a minor with mental conditions and the parent has no control over it which includes transporting them to hospitals and facilities.

Diane ‘Die’ Despres, a 46 year-old widow of three years has been given the news. Her 16 year-old son Steve, an ADHD child with a history of violent behavior, has been sent to a long list of list of juvenile institutions over the years. His violent behavior has gotten him constantly kicked out and transferred to the next. However his actions at his most recent institution– setting fire to the cafeteria which left one boy badly burned– led to the final straw: transfer to a more restrictive detention centre where she knows he’ll never be rehabilitated. She goes against all judgment and takes Steve into her own hands.

Die has to be a toughy with Steve if she wants to make this work all on her own. She’s even willing to risk losing her job to keep Steve from the alternative, which does happen. She knows it will be very hard to keep Steve because of his behavior and it’s his first violent outburst since taking him on that’s her first test. She stops him by throwing a bookcase on him and that leads to Steve having a gash. She can’t take him to a hospital but she finds help from Kyla, a neighbor from across the street who’s always been so private and only seen with her husband and children. She gives Steve the stitches.

Die is impressed with Kyla’s nursing skills.  The three form a friendship that’s very close as they do many things together. Kyla is especially beneficial as she’s a nurse who knows how to handle the behavior of people with ADHD like Steve. The three of them share many good times together. Die is finally smiling and happy, Steve is able to show off his enthusiasm and a passion for life, and Kyla is able to come out of her shell. Die is even impressed with how she knows how to handle Steve. She doesn’t have to do this alone. However all three know that they have to keep this top secret.  Die even meets with a lawyer to work on their case against the institution. It appears to look good until Steve is mocked at a bar during karaoke night. he becomes violent and threatens the heckler with a broken beer bottle. Steve even gives a further outburst towards the lawyer which causes the lawyer to drop the two.

Despite it all, the three continue on even after Die is served. She is given the warning to give Steve up or she will be charged. The three hope to keep things hidden and things continue to go well until Steve tries to slit his wrist in a store. That was the final straw. Die can’t take it anymore and has to take Steve to the institution. Changes also come for Kyla as her husband has a job in Toronto. The film does end not how one would expect.

Once again this is another entertaining film from Dolan. Like many of his films, it gives a lot of focus on the madness of his protagonist’s minds. However this is not just simply that. This is also a focus on the protagonist’s behavior problems associated with the mental condition. It gives some good focus on the ‘wild imagination’ associated with people with ADHD, especially in scenes with Steve having fun in the parking lot and skateboarding feeling free.  However it also focuses on behavior problems where Steve gets dangerously violent with his mother, verbally abusive with the lawyer who’s supposed to help the two out, impulsively suicidal in the store and even shows the lack of sexual restraint when Steve tries to come on to Kyla. The character of Steve does a good display of showing the positive side of ADHD but also its weaknesses, especially how many young people act like they don’t know their boundaries. We’re already made aware of the fire Steve set which left another teen badly burned at the beginning. However it’s in the film we get a better sense of the condition and a young person’s behavior patterns from sweet and loving to ruthless and nasty.

The film is also about a mother’s love for such a child and how it’s tested. I remember reading a book on parenting teenagers and it said a sentence that really stuck in my head: “If you can handle a teen with ADHD, you can handle any kid.” We know how much Die loves Steve to the point she’s willing to break the law to keep him. That opening scene when she unapologetically barges into Steve’s bedroom to wake him up even while she catches him masturbating already showed that she’s a tough-as-nails mother. However there’s no doubt that her love for him will be put to the test big time. The story shows the trials Die has to go to in order to keep Steve from his violent outbursts to the point of even throwing a bookcase on him. The story also shows how much sacrifice Die has to deal with to keep Steve such as losing her job and losing the lawyer that can help the two win the case. The story even shows how even the toughest of mothers like Die can just have enough of it all and turn Steve in.

It’s not even strictly about ADHD and a mother’s love. It’s also about the trio of a friendship. Kyla’s presence is also very vital as she is one of the few adults who know how to deal with Steve and she becomes Die’s first friend since the death. And to think Kyla was simply a loner wife and mother before the two met her. The film makes for a fascinating friendship between the three.

Interesting thing about this is that the story is in the near future but by a single year and talks of a law passed by the newly elected administration. The funny thing is that most Canadians, especially British Columbians, would expect a law like that to be passed by our current administration. Okay, enough of that. Back to focusing on the film, the one weakness about the film is that it gets us wrapped up in the story to the point we forget about this law that threatens to tear the two apart. And we’re only reminded of it near the end. I’m sure the law has a lot to do with Die keeping Steve to herself and Kyla keeping things hidden but the story makes it so easy to forget.

Once again, this is another triumph for Quebec wunderkind Xavier Dolan. I still remember five years ago when he burst on the scene as a 20 year-old with I Killed My Mother and caught loads of attention at that year’s Cannes. I saw it. Excellent film. Dolan has since proved he’s no one-trick-pony as he has delivered other consistent films like 2010’s Heartbeats, last year’s Tom At The Farm and this film. It’s no wonder he’s become all the buzz at Cannes these past few years and has even caught the attention of Brad Pitt. However this is something unique as this is the first Dolan film where Xavier does not act at all in it. It’s a very good film and another accomplishment from Xavier.

The funny thing about this film is that there have been times I wanted to compare it to his breakthrough film I Killed My Mother. It’s not an easy thing to do as both have a lot of things in common. I do admit that I Killed my Mother is still my favorite film from Dolan. Also looking back, I’ve been trying to see if Mommy shows a filmmaking maturity in Dolan in the five years since. It was very hard to pinpoint out in all the retrospective thinking I’ve been doing. Mind you for those who saw I Killed My Mother, I’m sure you were all surprised how well-directed it was. It easy makes you forget it was done by a 20 year-old.

Actually there were some differences and even some challenges between the two. And not simply because Xavier doesn’t act here. First was creating a story involving a character with a common mental condition. Dolan had to know it inside out and deliver a character that displayed those traits but didn’t come across as insulting to those that had it. Another difference was the focus of a teen boy’s heterosexual feelings. Most of Dolan’s films have focused on homosexuality. And another trait of the movie was Dolan trying to portray the essence of being a teenager even as Dolan was 24 at the time of making the film. Dolan shows she still hasn’t forgotten that essence five years later.

Antoine-Olivier Pilon did an excellent performance with a character very complex. It’s good to see someone that young do a great acting job. However Anne Dorval was the standout of the film. She also delivered well as a mother who is easily tested despite her rebel side. Suzanne Clement is also excellent as the friend who comes out of her shell. The three of them together had the right chemistry to make the film work. Even the minor characters added to the movie. Like Kyla’s husband added to it as one who could say a lot without speaking a word. The mix of music in the film was an excellent mix of common hits and neo-classical compositions and it fit the film well.

Mommy has already won some good accolades. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Prix du Jury. It even won awards at a Francophone film festival in Namur, Belgium and has made almost $3 million at box offices around the world.  It’s also Canada’s official entry in the Best Foreign language Film Category for this year’s Oscars.

Mommy also further confirms my belief about the Canadian motion picture system. For those who don’t know my belief about it, my belief is there are two different types of movies coming from Canada: the films from Quebec and the films from English Canada. The films from Quebec have their own distinct style and consistently display creativity and professionalism. The directors themselves have gained universal recognition and even won awards including an Oscar. The films from English Canada are also professional lack the eye-catching ability of Quebec and have to do lots of effort in order to win attention even in Canada. There isn’t even much of a legacy for the films of English Canada. I believe Mommy further adds to the legacy of Quebec filmmaking and further proves the films of English Canada have a lot of catching up to do.

Mommy is another accomplishment for Xavier Dolan. It quite possibly even makes him the biggest ‘young gun’ director in the world right now. Twenty-five years old and this is his fifth critically-renowned film. I can’t think of another young gun with as much accomplishments right now.

A VIFF 2014 Wrap-Up: A Record Year

CinemaDISCLAIMER: Okay, I know this is a month late but I’ve had some computer problems plus I was waiting for some certain facts that still have not yet come. Nevertheless I decided to publish this VIFF wrap-up as is today. Especially since I want to get my review of Mommy out soon.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped itself up the night of Friday, October 10th. It was quite the sixteen days of films, discussions, films, events, films. You get the point. Nevertheless the end gave lots for people at the VIFF to smile about.

You may remember last year was about getting used to a new system of theatres with the closure of both the Granville 7 and the Ridge. This led to two new smaller theatres, a back-theatre to a mainstage and temporary use of three theatres in a downtown megaplex. It worked out well in the end in more ways than one.  Firstly it helped the VIFF have a very good per-screen average of attended. Secondly it was an opportunity to learn and make improvements for the following year. This year was really excellent both in terms of attendance and festivities. I’ll get to the numbers later in my blog. One thing is that the film festival heads were now more familiar with the new format and could make it work better this time.

It seems like each year is a new adventure both in watching films and volunteering. Volunteering was a unique thing this year as people could now schedule their shifts electronically via an online booking system. Nevertheless things were the same that we all still had to sign in and sign out via a paper sheet. Yep, they still keep a total of hours through that method. One of the good things about the electronic system is that it expected people to trade shifts if they couldn’t make it or call in to cancel. A confirmation e-mail would be sent to them with a number for them to call and cancel if they couldn’t make it. If they didn’t, they risked being dropped and having their volunteer card cancelled if they had free movies in mind.

Another unique thing this year was we were not all confined to a single theatre. We could book shifts to as many theatres as we wanted. The commitment level was still expected as we were still expected to meet up with the theatre manager at all our shifts. I was able to book for SFU Woodwards, Cinematheque, The Rio, International Village (Tinseltown) and the Centre for Performing Arts. I think the only ones I didn’t do were the VanCity and the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse. Nevertheless it made for some good times. It made for some frustrations too in the case of scanners that delayed their use at times or didn’t scan passes or iPhones well.

One unique duty as far as volunteering was surveying. This was something new as I’ve never seen surveying done before. It wasn’t an easy thing to do as there wasn’t that huge of a number of people willing to do it at first. When incentives for entry into a contest came up, I made myself willing. There were three times I did it: a Saturday and a Sunday at Tinseltown and closing day at the Centre for Performing Arts including the gala. It was a good focus on attendees with the prime focus on people from out of town.

Filmwatching opportunities were good for me as you can tell by my reviews. However this year was not the year I gave the most reviews. Last year was with 16. This year I was able to review 14 even though I saw 15 in their entirety or close enough. The only one I chose not to review was In Search Of Chopin because it was more a DVD biography of Chopin simply played in front of a big screen. I saw films from France, Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Korea. I saw comedies, dramas, documentaries, shorts, feature-length films, television shows brought to the screen, independent films and big production company films. It was a good mix though I wish I could see more variety but I’m not complaining. They were all unique and had their own styles. I don’t think I saw anything really bad this year. Also I don’t think any of the movies I saw pushed the envelope in a big way unlike in the past. I think El Incidente was probably the edgiest because it told a unique story of the supernatural.

The most interesting thing that happened on screen was the unexpected airing of a short before some films showed. The short was called Echoes and I saw it three times: only once in its entirety. The first time I saw it, it was as it was ending and I thought I walked into the theatre just as a film was finishing. I tried looking in my VIFF guide for it but couldn’t find it. All I knew was that it was produced by the Weinstein brothers. Then I saw it again just before I saw Haemoo. Once again I walked in long after the short started and it didn’t make much sense at first. Also this time it was at the Centre and they had a tent from Lexus where they were signing people up for a Lexus contest, in which I entered. Later on I learned of the title and researched it online. I saw some Youtube videos and write ups about it and how both Lexus and the Weinstein Group are involved in its promotion. It caught my interest but still left me confused what the short was all about. I finally did have a chance to see it in its entirety when I was in my seat long before I saw El Incidente. I finally got what it was all about and the point of airing it before the show. Funny how it wasn’t until the very last show when it all made sense.

The number of films I saw could have been higher especially with the Rio having their 11:30 at night screenings for seven of those days. However I would only be willing to see such a late-night film if it was worth it and I was guaranteed to return home in decent time that night. I only saw two 11:30 shows. There were some I passed up: the one the first Friday because of its late start time, the one the second Friday because I was ticket scanning and only finished scanning long after the film started, two because I already saw one film while ushering and that was enough, and the one on the Thursday before closing because I fell ill. Weird how I was still ill but saw the 11:30 Rio show on the last night of the VIFF. Hey, it’s a personal tradition of mine I either see the last VIFF movie or volunteer on closing day.

As for the festival itself, the Festival had its third-highest number in terms of flat ticket entries: 144,000. 2011 and 2010 had higher numbers but this year’s VIFF of 144,000 entries over 349 films exceeded 2011’s record for per-screen attendance of 150,000 over 386 films. The results are especially impressive when you compare it 2012 which had more films and with last year under the new format. Last year’s total entries were 130,000: an increase this year by more than 10%. Great job, VIFF!

Anyways here is the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival by the numbers:

 

144,000: estimated gated attendance

1000+: Film and Television forum delegates

700+: volunteers

549: public screenings

349: films shown

  • 219: feature length (60+ minutes)
  • 130: short or mid-length films (less than 60 minutes)

76: Canadian Films shown

68: countries entering films

83: Canadian premieres

  • 45: North American premieres
  • 24: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
  • 11: World Premieres

24: Media Screenings

19: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown

18: percentage increase of visitors from the US

17: panels featuring 73 speakers

16: days of showing films

9: screens showing films

7: theatres participating in the VIFF

 

Now I know some of you want to know the award winners. Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-THE VANCOUVER ASAHI (Canada), dir. Ishii Yuya

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME (USA), dir. James Keach

BEST NEW DIRECTOR AWARD (tie)

-MISS AND THE DOCTORS, dir. Axelle Ropert

-REKORDER, dir. Mikhail Red

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

-ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, dir. Suzanne Crocker

Runners-Up: MARINONI, dir. Tony Girardin

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

VIFF IMPACT AWARD

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-PREGGOLAND, dir. Jacob Tierney

WOMEN IN FILM AND TELEVISION ARTISTIC MERIT AWARD

-SITTING ON THE EDGE OF MARLENE, dir. Ana Valine

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

-VIOLENT, dir. Andrew Huculak

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM

-THE CUT, dir. Geneviève Dulude-Decelles

Honorable Mention:

BEST BC FILM:

-VIOLENT, dir. Andrew Huculak

MUST SEE BC AWARD:

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-SITTING ON THE EDGE OF MARLENE, dir. Ana Valine

Those were awarded at Friday’s closing gala. After the VIFF closed, VIFF repeats happened at select theatres for three more days. I helped volunteer two of those days at the SFU. Then it was the volunteer party on Sunday. I was able to get there right after seeing Still Life. The party was at the Rickshaw Theatre and it started with a showing of the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure which not only consisted of the movie being shown but a cast re-enacting and spoofing the movie. There were even times they had people from the audience including myself participate. After the showing, it was a feast on appetizers, drinks and dancing to two of the VIFF’s favorite bands. Of course there were prizes given away and this year’s posters being given out. Great to see this year’s VIFF end on an exciting note.

So there you go. The 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with record success and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 24th to October 9th, 2015 and should be bigger and better. I know last year I said I hoped the VIFF would be one Film Festival added to the FIAPF: the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. However some people prefer that it’s not as they feel VIFF not being part of the FIAPF-associated film fests would add to the VIFF’s reputation being an unspoiled celebration of film. We’ll see in the future. Anyways things look optimistic already and the VIFF’s reputation improves over time. See you next year!