Super Bowl LI Preview

super-bowl

Yes, it’s that time again. The biggest annual sporting event takes place tonight at the NRG Stadium in Houston. This year, the Conference champions decided are the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. It promises to be a tight game. It also promises to be a big event.

IT’S SHOWTIME

I don’t need to go into the history of the Super Bowl this time around. I did that in last year’s Super Bowl blog. For those who want to read it, click here. Although this will be Super Bowl LI, its 50th anniversary was three weeks ago. But whatever. It’s time to get on with the show.

Stars of the Broadway musical Hamilton will sing America The Beautiful before the game. The Star Spangled Banner will be sung by country singer Luke Bryan. Former president and former first lady George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush will do the coin toss and Lady Gaga will do the half-time show.

Of course there are those one-of-a-kind Super Bowl ads. Ads will cost $5 million for a 30-second airing. Snickers will present a live commercial during the game. Nintendo will introduce its Nintendo Switch video game console. However an ad Budweiser planned on showing during the Super Bowl garnered controversy. It showcased Adolphus Busch immigrating to the U. S. and partnering with Eberhart Anheuser. Many people, especially conservatives, suspected this ad was a pot shot to Donald Trump and his recent restrictive immigration policies.

THE GAME

Yes, the match. The NRG Stadium in Houston is expected to seat 80,000 for the game. The game is expected to be witnessed on television by billions worldwide and have 38 different cameras around the stadium highlighting the players’ plays. For all its hype, the match features two top contenders: the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

patriots

New England Patriots

The Patriots come in as the favorite for the Super Bowl. They had the best results in the whole of the NFL regular season with 14 wins and two losses. They also played excellently during the conference matches too. The Patriots are no strangers to the Super Bowl as they’ve won their AFC championship nine times including this year and won the Super Bowl four times before: the most recent being 2014.

This year the Patriots have shown a lot of consistency but it’s not without controversy. We all know about Tom Brady and ‘Deflategate.’ It would not surprise me if many want the Patriots to lose because of that. Tom Brady still ranks as one of the top quarterbacks of the NFL and he will be very tough for the Falcons and their defense to bring him down. However the Falcons have excelled in scoring so they will give the Patriots a good fight.

falcons

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are the underdogs. Not just because they don’t have the same win-loss stats as the Patriots but because previous games have exposed their weaknesses. They are the top team of the NFL in terms of scoring but they finished the regular season second in the NFC.

If there’s one thing, the Falcons really came back in the playoffs. They won their Divisional Final against the Seahawks whom they lost to in regular season and they played brilliantly in their Conference Final against the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl will prove to be an interesting rivalry as the Patriots have the better defense but the Falcons are the better team at scoring. Also New England may have Tom Brady but Atlanta has Matt Ryan. This year, Ryan set a Falcons single-game record for throwing 503 yards and four touchdowns while teammate Julio Jones caught a team-record 300 yards and a touchdown and a win against the Panthers. So the Falcons know how to arrive.

MY PREDICTION

Okay, one team has been to the Super Bowl many times while this is the second time for the other. One team played the best in the NFL in regular season and continues its brilliance. The other didn’t compare to the other in regular season but has played better than ever in the playoffs. In fact both teams performed brilliantly in their Conference Final wins.

So I predict the win to go to the New England Patriots. I predict the score to be 30-27 and I expect the Falcons to lead temporarily.

So there you have it. There’s my preview of Super Bowl LI. Kickoff to start at 5:30pm Texas time.

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

strange

Benedict Cumberbatch brings Doctor Strange to the big screen with his superpowers and fire magic.

I’ll admit I had my review of Doctor Strange started back when I saw it in November: Election Day to be exact. The reason for its late publish has a lot to do with my lack of ambition. Paying attention to my hit statistics and seeing how 2016 gave me my lowest annual hit stats since 2011 kept me from publishing. However the recent upswing of hits in January rejuvenated my blogging energy and I can finally publish my review!

Dr. Strange is not a new Marvel superhero. He first appeared in a 1963 addition of Strange Tales created to bring a different type of character and themes of mysticism to comics. It wasn’t completely welcome during its early years as some people thought those at Marvel comics must be on some kind of drugs. Dr. Strange would continue to have his own comic series for decades until the early 2000’s. Then he was placed as a supporting character in comic books of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers. Dr. Strange has been able to reclaim his own at the start of this decade.

Marvel faced a huge task in bringing a superhero most people are unfamiliar with and making them a household name. They’ve done it before, with The Guardians Of The Galaxy being the most recent example. However it’s still a case of hit-and-miss as last year Ant-Man didn’t get the success most were hoping for. 2016 has been a good but complex year for the Marvel studios. Their latest X-Men movie didn’t go off so well. Captain America: Civil War was a hit but it didn’t have the same muscle as past Captain America movies. Deadpool was a big hit, especially as an R-rated movie about an anti-hero, but Marvel still wants to excel in creating superheroes, especially in a family-friendly format.

Now in order to make Doctor Strange come alive on the big screen, Marvel had to create the right story. This is the first Doctor Strange movie so the origin is a definite must. Also a must is Stephen Strange’s personality as the surgeon who lives for the fame but is given a reality check after the car accident and subsequent adoption of a superhero persona. In addition, morals are necessary for superhero movies. It’s like my brother-in-law said today’s people are tired out with life. People want entertainment that gives us heroes to look up. I agree. Despite the onslaught of Deadpool, Suicide Squad and Sausage Party, people welcome heroes and are comfortable with seeing morals redeemed. It’s not like the 90’s where we all has an insatiable appetite for entertainment that was ruthless, obnoxious and appeared to be an artistic middle-finger.

However there were two major things needed to make Doctor Strange take off. The first was Benedict Cumberbatch had to make the character of Doctor Strange work. Cumberbatch had to be able to portray Doctor Strange’s pre-accident arrogance well and to make his change in personality transfer successfully. Cumberbatch was very good in portraying the character. The other major thing needed most for this movie is top-of-the-line visual effects. Already Doctor Strange’s unique superpowers mostly involve the use of pyrotechnics. They had to look like the magic they are. The shifts from one world to the next would also require top-of-the-line visual effects. If you saw the movie yourself, I’m sure you would also be dazzled by the effects of the film from the pyrotechnics to the various worlds to the freezing of time.

Although Cumberbatch’s acting and the visual effects were the highlights of the movie, it had a lot of other ingredients responsible for its success. Scott Derrickson did a very good job of directing. Derrickson has developed a reputation with directing and writing sci-fi movies in the past and he was the right man for the job here. The script he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill also had to be very good because this was one superhero movie that was not too heavy on the action and placed more emphasis on the story, putting the thriller emphasis more on the slow intensity of the moment. It even included some humor which Marvel likes to include in the first movie of one of their superheroes. They succeeded in accomplishing that. The supporting acting performances like Chiwetel Ejiofor as the mentoring Karl Mordo, Benedict Wong as a non-stereotypical Asian martial arts master, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One also mentoring Strange, and Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, the woman who gives Stephen Strange his reality check, also added to the strength to the story. The music from Michael Giacchino also fit the film and its various moments well.

Doctor Strange was released at the right time. It was released in November when movie crowds are starting to grow again right after the end of the summer season. Usually November is the biggest movie month outside the summer. People are used to settling back to their routines and they can now go out for enjoyment. Dr. Strange won its opening weekend with a draw of $88 million and remained on top for another week despite challenges from Trolls and Arrival. Even after facing rivalry from the following weeks with new releases like Fantastic Beasts and Moana, Doctor Strange did strong spending seven weeks in the box office Top 10 and grossing $231.6 million in North America and almost $665 million worldwide. As the Oscar nominations have approached, its visual effects were nominated. If you remember the effects, you too would think they were some of the best of the year.

As for a possible Doctor Strange sequel, Derrickson talked of a sequel even a month before its release. He mentioned he had fun with the character. The success of it is the perfect green light for a future sequel.

Doctor Strange is the biggest debut movie for a superhero since the Guardians Of The Galaxy. In a year that was a bit of a struggle for Marvel, it delivered in entertainment and thrills.

My Predictions For The 2016 Academy Award Nominees

Chocolate Oscar

I know I haven’t been blogging as much as I normally have. You may have noticed I didn’t post predictions for the Golden Globes this year. Heck, I’ve even delayed publishing my review of Doctor Strange! It’s not just about my busy schedule but my lack of hits to my blog in 2016: the least since 2011. However since I’ve been getting more hits to my blog this January, it gives me the energy to publish my next blog.

Of course I wouldn’t miss out on predicting the Oscar nominations. I have been paying attention to the race and seen some of the heavily favored films. The race looks exciting and it’s hard to tell who will win. La La Land looks like the best bet but there have been surprises before, like Spotlight trouncing The Revenant last year. And speaking of last year, I believe the #OscarsSoWhite row has paid off as the Academy has seen a lot of diversity in this year’s new inductees, which I will reflect on in a blog in a week or two, and there appears to be four or five non-white actors heavily favored to be nominated. Cheryl Boone Isaacs even said she’ll have the Academy lead by example.

Anyways without further ado, I have my predictions. To start off, here are my predictions for the nominations on Tuesday:

BEST PICTURE

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell Or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Sully

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Garth Davis, Lion
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

BEST ACTOR

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  •  Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  •  Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Yorgos Lanthimos and Efyhimis Filipou, The Lobster
  • Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Barry Jenkins And Terell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
  • Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
  • August Wilson, Fences

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Finding Dory
  • Kubo And The Two Strings
  • Moana
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Greg Fraser, Lion
  • James Laxton, Moonlight
  • Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
  • Linus Sandgren, La La Land
  • Bradford Young, Arrival

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
  • Mary Zophres, Hail Caesar!
  • Mary Zophres, La La Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • The Eagle Huntress
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made In America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Julian Clarke, Deadpool
  • Tom Cross, La La Land
  • John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Jennifer Lame, Manchester By The Sea
  • Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • It’s Only The End Of The World (Canada)
  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Nicholas Britwell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
  • John Williams, The BFG
  • Hans Zimmer, Pharrel Williams and Benjamin Walfisch, Hidden Figures

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’, Trolls
  • ‘City Of Stars’, La La Land
  • ‘Faith’, Sing
  • ‘Heathens’, Suicide Squad
  • ‘How Far I’ll Go’, Moana

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Hail Caesar!
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Arrival
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Rogue One

Those are my predictions for nominations. I also include predictions for possible upsetters for my main predictions. They could upset some of my favorites and get nominated instead. Without further ado, here is my list for the most likely upsetters:

BEST PICTURE

  • Loving
  • Deadpool
  • Elle

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTOR

  • Tom Hanks, Sully
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving

BEST ACTRESS

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, Silence

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • My Life As a Zucchini
  • Miss Hokusai

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Seamus McGarvey, Nocturnal Animals

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, The Dressmaker
  • Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, Love & Friendship

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • 13th

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Joe Walker, Arrival
  • Jake Roberts, Hell Or High Water

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Abel Korzeniowski, Nocturnal Animals

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  •  ‘Try Everything’, Zootopia
  •  ‘Just Like Fire’, Alice Through Looking Glass

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Arrival
  • Jackie

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

So did my predictions come true? Which of my upsetter predictions caused the biggest shocker? Or which nominations from left-field happened? We’ll find out Tuesdayj morning.

VIFF 2016 Wrap-Up And Introduction To My New Blog

Cinema
I’ll admit I’ve been delaying my wrap-up to this year’s Vancouver Film Festival for the longest time. Heck, VIFF 2016 ended exactly two months ago! Hey I’ve been bogged down with work, school and this surprisingly blizzard-like weather which is extremely rare in Vancouver. On top of it, VIFF stats I was hoping to get after the Fest didn’t come. Nevertheless I feel a wrap-up is still worth publishing even if it’s this late.

The 2016 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 13th. This was the first VIFF since 2011 that took place during Thanksgiving weekend. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 70+ countries. There were even VIFF late night Hubs around the VIFF theatre held during the first ten days of the festival. I missed my chance because I was thinking of catching a hub during the second week. I didn’t know they ended that soon. Maybe next year.

The award winners were announced at the closing gala on Friday:

BC Spotlight Awards

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Hello Destroyer (dir. Kevan Funk)

Ignite Award
Recognizes the outstanding work of a female key creative on a BC-produced feature or short.
Presented by TELUS
WINNER: Cabbie (dirs. Jessica Parsons, Jennifer Chiu)
Honourable Mention: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Eat Alone (dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Living With Giants (dirs. Sebastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque)
Honourable Mention: Quebec My Country Mon Pays (dir. John Walker)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)
Honourable Mention: Srorrim (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Ceux qui restent/Those Who Remains (dir. Mathieu Vachon)
Honourable Mention: Fish (dir. Heather Young)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
WINNER: Parent, Teacher (dir. Roman Tchjen)
Honourable Mention: Old Man (dir. Alicia Eisen)

Impact Awards

Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Crisis Awareness Short Film Competition
Presented by The Radcliffe Foundation
WINNER: Helpful Hand (dir. Alex Nagy)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by Leonard Schein to one of the nine issue-oriented documentary films in the Impact Stream

WINNER: Power to Change – The Energy Rebellion (dir. Carl-A. Fechner)

VIFF Industry Builder Award
Presented by MPPIA to celebrate BC Creates with support from Western Economic Diversification and CreativeBC

2016 Honoree: Chris Carter

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach)
Runner up: The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Human (dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Spirit Unforgettable (dir. Pete McCormack)

#mustseebc Presented by TELUS Optik Local
WINNER: Cadence (dir. Alex Lasheras)

As for my volunteer experience, it was all at the International Village this year and it was a good experience. I had a mix of shifts from early morning to late evening to middle of the day. I volunteered both during the Sunday and Monday of thanksgiving. I also volunteered all day Thursday the 12th. I had more chances this year to watch films than I did last year. Last year, I only had the luck of seeing one during my volunteer work. If you can ask me what my favorite film of the ones I saw was, I would have to say it was the first one I saw: Barakah Meets Barakah. It was entertaining and very intelligent.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday before Halloween. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Jackrabbit Slims party which consisted of the VanCity Theatre turned into a 1950’s diner, like in Pulp Fiction, and people treated to hamburgers, cupcakes, a complimentary drink and dancing to a jukebox. It was fun and it had me looking forward to next year.

My New Blog

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this year is the way I do blogging. This is nearing my sixth year. I’m not getting the amount of hits I was hoping to this year. Blog topics that normally get a lot of hits on my site didn’t this time. In fact this year is set to have the least amount of total hits for the year since 2011. I won’t quit blogging but the lack of hits have taken away from my ambition and I don’t post as often as I normally do, as you may have noticed.

One thing I’ve thought of doing is setting up one blog focused on a single topic. The first single-topic blog I’m starting is about the Vancouver Film Festival and it’s called VIFFin’ It Up. It will consist of reviews I’ve seen at the VIFF and reviews of VIFF films I saw after the fest. It will also consist of news related to the Fest and the usual annual previews and wrap-ups. If you want to follow it or enter your email to subscribe, just click here. Right now I just have the intro. Over the days, I will post reviews and previews of past VIFFs starting with 2011: the first VIFF I blogged about.

So there you go. The 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 28th to October 12th, 2017 and should be bigger and better. Hopefully next year I’ll attend a hub. See you next year!

 

2016 Grey Cup Preview

grey-cup

This Sunday marks the Canadian tradition of the Grey Cup taking place. This will mark the 104th time the Cup has been contested. Once again, it’s the best of the east versus the best of the west. Lots of excitement and lots to anticipate for the big game.

A New Host Site On Familiar Ground

This will mark the first time the Grey Cup will be contested in the new BMO Field Stadium. However it will be the thirteenth time in which the Cup will be contested on the grounds as it was Exhibition Stadium the previous twelve times before the SkyDome replaced Exhibition Stadium as Toronto’s host venue. Now the Exhibition Stadium field takes it back! This will also be the first Grey Cup since 2002 that will be contested on grass turf.

Party Time

Just like the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup will have its parties. There will be no shortage here. Leading up to the Cup there will be fan activities, alumni luncheons and autograph sessions. There will also be two new events added to this year: the Empowering Women and Community Through Sport Summit and the first Grey Cup party in support of an LGBT community hosted by Strikers Sports Bar and You Can Play.

Sirius XM will be hosting the Grey Cup concert series with acts like the New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club, The Sheepdogs and The Lowest Of The Low slated to perform. Alessia Cara will highlight the SiriusXM kickoff show, The Tenors will sing the national anthem and OneRepublic will perform during the Freedom Mobile Halftime Show.

Ticket Problems

Sure, it’s a given that the ticket prices increase with every Grey Cup but there is a risk of it going overboard. The ticket prices originally ranged from $169 to $899 before taxes. However the prices resulted in a smaller-than-anticipated total of tickets sold by mid-October. This led to organizers to reduce the prices of the tickets. Those who already purchased tickets were offered either a compensation or an upgrade after the price decrease. With less than a week before the Cup, sales of tickets increased dramatically and a sell-out of 35,000 is anticipated for tomorrow.

AND NOW THE GAME:

The game will feature the best of the West, Calgary Stampeders, squaring off against the best of the East, Ottawa RedBlacks. It’s easy to predict the winner but there can be surprises. So here’s how I narrow it down:

stampeders

Calgary Stampeders

This is the team of the CFL this year winning fifteen of their eighteen regular season games. Their two losses came at the hands of the BC Lions and the Montreal Allouettes and their draw came via the RedBlacks. The Stampeders are the best CFL team this year but they’re not invincible. It could be possible they could give it away at the Grey Cup.

The Stampeders don’t simply want to win for themselves but they also want to win in memory of their young teammate Mylan Hicks. Before Hicks played for the Stampeders, he played Michigan State in college and was signed onto the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 but was released before the season started. Two months ago, the 23 year-old Hicks was shot to death at a Calgary night club. The team will be wearing black 31 pins in honor of Hicks on Sunday night.

ottawa

Ottawa RedBlacks

Ottawa RedBlacks make it two straight Grey Cups in their three seasons of existence. They are the best of the East this CFL season but that’s not really saying much this year. Ottawa topped the CFL’s East rankings with 8 wins, 9 losses and a draw. The West had all but one of their five teams amass ten wins during regular season play. Obvious signs this was a weak year for the East. It could have been an all-West Grey Cup this year but the RedBlacks won their semifinal against Edmonton on Sunday with a score of 35-23. Actually Edmonton was the one team the RedBlacks beat in both their regular season games. Lucky guys.

The RedBlacks are not too weak to win against the Stampeders. They may have lost to the Stamps 48-23 back in September but they drew 26-26 after two overtimes back in July. Coach Rick Campbell has worked hard to prepare the men and their defense has been getting stronger and more solid as of late. It’s very possible the RedBlacks can upset the highly-touted Stamps over in Toronto.

My Call:

Yes, I will eventually have to make my prediction. I will have to go with the majority and predict the Stampeders to win. As for the score, I’m guessing 35-20. This should make for an exciting game as Ottawa will put in a good fight.

And there you go. My preview and prediction for tomorrow’s Grey Cup game. Will this Grey Cup be the RedBlacks’ first ever (Ottawa’s tenth) or the Stampeders’ eighth? Kick Off is 6pm EST.

 

VIFF 2016 Review: Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

harold-lillian

Film researcher Lillian Michelson and storyboard artist/set designer Harold Michelson are the subject of the documentary Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story.

Yes, we know too much about Hollywood couples. Harold and Lillian Michelson are a couple that won’t come to most people’s minds. Nevertheless they’re worth knowing in Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story.

Harold and Lilian Michelson were a power couple in Hollywood, but a couple the masses never knew. Those in Hollywood not only knew them, they wanted them for their movies. Harold was a storyboard artist who drew the images for most of Hollywood’s best movies from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s continuing into the 80’s.The start of his legend began with The Ten Commandments and led to even bigger films like Ben-Hur, The Apartment, Cleopatra, The Birds, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate, Catch-22, Fiddler On The Roof, Hair, Spaceballs, and ending with 2003’s Duplex. Harold was also a set designer for Star Trek: The Movie (for which he received his first of two Oscar nominations), Terms Of Endearment, Spaceballs and Dick Tracy.

Lillian Michelson was a film researcher. Her research helped contribute to films like Fiddler On The Roof1941, Reds, Scarface and Rain Man to name a few. Her research was very intense as she would go searching about all information related to the place and time of the story including as far as what people would wear in a certain time. One example of how far she’d go for her research: Lillian even interviewed an actual drug lord from Colombia for Scarface. She was that fearless. She even owned a library full of research materials for films she worked on: a library she would constantly have to fight for a space to have it all kept.

Harold and Lillian were also a dedicated couple who kept a solid marriage for 60 years. Harold was well to do but Lillian was raised an orphan. The age gap of 11 years didn’t stop Harold from taking a liking to her and they married in 1947 when Harold was 28 and Lillian was 17. Harold decided to pursue life as a storyboard artist in Hollywood after returning from the war. An Army Sargent saw the drawings Harold drew of the war and thought he would make an excellent artist. Lillian had nothing really to lose as her first pregnancy cost her a telephone company job; this happened during a time women didn’t have the right to sue for their job back. Lillian would mother three children including an autistic son. Harold was frequently away at work and this caused friction in their marriage. Lillian, bored with motherhood, found an opportunity to become a film researcher and the rest is history. Their marriage was strong and committed and went through the ups and downs until Harold died in 2007. Lillian retired in 2010 and now lives in a Hollywood retirement home.

This documentary is a mix of things. This film mixes the love of Harold and Lillian with their accomplishments in Hollywood. It takes you into what they achieved in film and fits it with the films they were a part of. Sometimes you’re led to think they helped make the film’s greatness. The film tells of the times where they were getting their start in the business: Harold having to spend time as an apprentice in the Hollywood system before his rise and Lillian chasing an opportunity because of the limited chances for women at the time. This film also tells the stories of their own lives where they had to both play spouse and parent, including a parent to an autistic son. We also see how Harold would take his storyboard illustration style he used for his Hollywood books and include it in his own personal diary of his marriage and family life in all its triumphs and struggles.

It’s interesting how when you watch this film, you learn how much these two are responsible for some of the best films to come out of Hollywood. You’d be shocked to see how many films Harold was a storyboard illustrator for: Ben-Hur, The Graduate, The Birds, Cleopatra, Fiddle On The Roof, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, etc. You often feel he helped make that era of Hollywood. Learning about all the films Lillian did research for starting with Fiddler On The Roof, and most notably Scarface and Rain Man, you not only develop an appreciation for her too but her profession. The words of gratitude from such big names like Danny De Vito, Mel Brooks and Francis Ford Coppola leave you convinced they may have been the best ever. Even learning about all the research materials she had and continuously fought have a space for, you feel it deserves its own permanent library.

Kudos to Danial Raim for making a very intriguing, very entertaining documentary. This is the third documentary he directed, wrote, edited, produced and cinematographed. This documentary finally exposes Hollywood’s best kept secret in both the films they made and the love they had. However I will admit there are some areas where I felt the editing could have been done better. Most of the time, it goes from the story to the movie they created to the people they worked with in the right order. Nevertheless there are times when the order doesn’t seem to go right. Rare in the film but noticeable. I personally feel this would be a good film to release at the box office. However I’m a person who’s interested in some of the stories of Hollywood movies past. It’s hard to know what exactly makes for a documentary that has what it takes for a box office release. Even those nominated for the Oscars and win don’t exactly explain it all. I think this documentary is best for channels like B.C.’s Knowledge Network or TCM.

Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is more than just a story about a Hollywood couple. It’s also a film that gets you understanding their behind-the-scenes jobs and leaves you thinking they were the best ever in their professions.

VIFF 2016 Review: The Eyes Of My Mother

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The Eyes Of My Mother tells a story of how a young girl named Francisca inherits a blood lust.

I knew with The Eyes Of My Mother being an Altered states film, I would be taken into the world of either the bizarre, sinister or paranormal. I got sinister this time but I was not too impressed.

The film begins with a truck driver stopping to what appears to be a body in the road. The woman is very much alive but tortured physically. Flashback to at least 25 years earlier. Young Francesca is the young daughter of a Portuguese farming couple. The parents used to be cow ranchers back in their home.

One day, they’re visited by a man named Charlie who needs to use the phone. You can tell by Charlie’s face that he’s not worth your trust. Francisca witnesses Charlie bludgeoning her mother in the bathtub. The father responds by keeping Charlie captive and tortured in the barn. Francisca asked Charlie what it was like killing her mother. He responds: “It’s amazing.”

Many years pass. Francisca develops a blood lust of her own. She keeps Charlie tortured. However she also kills her old ailing father in the bathtub. She kills a stranger named Lucy. She appears to kill a mother named Kimiko and has taken to looking after Kimiko’s son Antonio. Actually Kimiko is alive but tortured in the barn the same way Charlie is: shackled and eyes dug out. Somehow Kimiko develops the strength and the willpower to find her way out on the barn. She however ends up on a road where a truck driver stops to see what’s up. This sets up for an ending that’s too brief.

Stories of ‘bloodlust’ are not that uncommon. If you’ve studied MacBeth, you get possibly the most renowned example of bloodlust. Here in this film, we hear why the feeling of bloodlust from both Charlie and older Francisca: because of its ‘amazing’ feeling. The feel of power from killing or torturing someone with your own hands can give one a feeling of satisfaction. Just ask soldiers, just ask dictators, just ask… the list is endless.

Here’s a case of the ‘bloodlust’ going from Charlie: the killer of Francesca’s mother, to Francisca. She acquires a lust for murder at her own hands from Charlie. She also acquires a desire for torture as demonstrated by her father on Charlie. The whole story revolves around Francisca and her own lust for murder and torture on others. Even the incorporation of the Portuguese language in her conversation takes the element of bloodlust into being like poetry. Even making it sensual.

That’s the best traits of the film: portraying a unique method of acquiring bloodlust and even making it poetic. However the film has a lot of noticeable weaknesses. We see Francesca has acquired this bloodlust but the film doesn’t make it convincing enough in her ability to receive it. It’s like she just received it. She may have been taught the love of murder by Charlie and the love of torture from her father but it doesn’t appear she acquires this bloodlust that believably. It’s like it just happened briefly. The other weakness is that it ended on a weak note and too abruptly. I feel that 77 minutes was too short of a time to have a film like this and the ending just seemed to be the weakest part of the film. Too sudden and too fast.

Despite the noticeable flaw, this is a good debut for Nicolas Pesce as a director and a writer. His first effort has won awards at the Fantastic Film Festival and was nominated at the AFI Fest for American Independents. Kika Magalhaes is another impressive newcomer as she does a great job in embodying her character’s madness. The other supporting characters also did a good job in their roles. Will Brill as Charlie is the one that stood out as you sensed right from the start it would be Charlie starting the trouble.

The Eyes Of My Mother makes for a good Halloween film. It’s very sinister but very poetic and charming at the same time. Nevertheless the flaws are noticeable in the film.

VIFF 2016 Review: We Are The Flesh (Tenemos La Carne)

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Noe Hernandez plays a svengali-like philosopher of a man with a warped desire for control in We Are The Flesh.

DISCLAIMER: This film review will mention of various explicit acts and may offend some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

“This is not your average party!”

Back in 2014, I ended the VIFF with a Mexican film that was part of the Altered States series called The Incident. I end my VIFF at the Rio Theatre again with another Mexican film part of Altered States called We Are The Flesh. And boy was it something!

The film begins with Mexico City in a completely ruined state. A recluse of a man taking shelter in a hidden location: one of the few livable locations left. Even without uttering a word, he displays some eccentric human behaviors. Even making a bizarre mix of batter, fish and human blood. He talks of the essential elements and of gas.

Two siblings find their way into his location. They’ve been out in the city’s ruins for years and are in need of food and shelter. The man, named Mariano, teaches the two his beliefs and his philosophies. He offers to help them but they must comply to his demands. First he wants them to help him build his domain. They agree, building the walls to his desires. Then he wants the two to have sex. It’s a world where there are no laws. Not even anti-incest laws. The sister complies, fellating the brother. The acts become even more explicit and Mariano dies while masturbating watching them.

The two try to find a place for Mariano’s body. After they find a place in the area, they’re left to their vices on how to fend for themselves. The sister has been mesmerized by Mariano and does things according to the way he wants it but the brother is hesitant. Suddenly Mariano appears again. It’s like he came back to life. But he’s not ready to die yet.

Mariano wants to make sure his world is created before he can die. Cannibalism is part of Mariano’s world. The first victim is a soldier who finds his way into Mariano’s domain. The soldier is scared for his life but Mariano is able to calm him down with his mesmerizing talk and even having him singing along to the Mexican national anthem before being killed by Mariano and the sister. Before Mariano is to sacrifice his own body as flesh to be eaten, he needs more people to be part of his world. Over time the number of people grow. Mariano is then ready to die and have his flesh consumed. The film ends with a man in a dress making his way out of the world and into Mexico City which has returned to its normal state.

Without a doubt the film creates another world: a deeply disturbing world. This world is to be a shelter from a ruined city but instead it’s a world completely devoid of morals and full of lust and animalistic desires. This is the world created by Mariano. This is the world he tries to incorporate the brother and sister into. This is the world he wants to incorporate others into before he decides to leave this earth for good. However it’s a sick world, a world where unspeakable things like incest and cannibalism are the norm because there are no earthly rules. The rules are all gone because Mexico City outside is a load of debris. The two have no choice but to help Mariano create his world and become a part of it.

To make this world work, it all boils down to the character of Mariano to work. Mariano isn’t just a svengali. He comes across as a crazy man full of his wild imagination at first. However he also comes across as a mesmerizing madman reminiscent of Charles Manson of how he’s able to convince the sister that it is the right thing to do all these things including kill the soldier. Mariano’s mind control goes as far as working on the soldier he’s about to kill. The soldier is first scared for his life but as Mariano sings the national anthem, the sister joins in as does the soldier and the soldier is then willing to be killed. That’s the type of mesmerizing mind-control of Mariano. However Mariano knows that if he was to die, it would have to be at the right time. It’s only after hundreds of people become a part of his world that he’s able to sacrifice his body for his feeding. He wanted it that way so that he could create a world of his own. He couldn’t stop at just the brother and sister.

One thing about this film, it’s obvious it’s done for artistic and experimental purposes. This film features countless elements that would make this film uninviting and unwatchable: incest, cannibalism, torture, murder and a demented insanity. It may not be as disturbing to watch as 1975’s Salo but it’s disturbing enough. The subject matter of incest and cannibalism is enough to deter lots of people from seeing this.

Obviously this is a film meant for the film festival circuit. In order for a film like this to get screened, it would need support. Emiliano Rocha Minter is a director who has earned acclaim from fellow Mexican directors Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Support of the director from elder Mexican directors is a definite boost for a film like this. However it would surprise me if a film like this does get a release in a box office anywhere. I know dildos were used in certain sex scenes and you can’t call it porn, but even knowing that doesn’t stop those scenes from being hard to stomach. Even with the film being hard to watch, there were some scenes that became confusing. One example: that batter that we see Mariano make at the beginning and then add more flesh to it in a later scene. It’s not clear what it’s for. Even the ending with a person who’s not one of the main characters being the first one to leave gets one questioning.

The film’s possibility of a box office release may be in question but it has actually won some acclaim at some film festivals. The film was nominated for one award at the East End Film Festival two awards at the Rotterdam Film Festival including a Bright Future Award. It even won Best Film at the Fantasia Film Festival.

This is the first feature-length film for writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter. As I mentioned, Cuaron and Inarritu are already touting him as the next big thing from Mexico. I don’t know if a film like this is good enough to send a message that Minter could be the next big thing from Mexico but it definitely shows his fearlessness. The acting of Noe Hernandez is the highlight of the film. He did an excellent job in capturing Mariano with his eeriness, controllingness and insanity but also his creepy charisma and imagination. It took the right character choices for a lead character like Mariano to work for the film and Hernandez made it work. The next-biggest highlight is Maria Evoli who played the sister. Going from a naive young adult woman to a follower of Mariano is definitely a big effort. The music from Esteban Aldrede added to the eeriness and creepiness of the film.

We Are The Flesh can best be summed up as an ‘envelope pusher.’ It’s definitely an over-the-top film that’s meant for the film festival circuit as it has subject matter too discomforting for your average movie-goer. Even though it can cause many people to leave the cinema, those that stay will be as intrigued as they will be disgusted.

And there you have it. That’s a wrap for my experience at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival. Wrap-up blog coming soon with big news.

VIFF 2016 Review: Personal Shopper

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Kristen Stewart plays a young woman in Paris who seems to be haunted by something she can’t explain in Personal Shopper.

DISCLAIMER: I know the VIFF ended a month ago. I’ll admit I’ve been slow at posting reviews. This is mostly due to attending night classes at a community college. However my writing energy is slowly returning and I will post theses last three VIFF reviews in good time. Hopefully all done before Saturday.

Ghost stories usually make for some cheesy movies. Personal Shopper is one story about a ghost that actually works very well for the cinema.

Maureen has just arrived in Paris. She just accepted a job to be a personal shopper for a high-status fashion journalist in Paris named Kyra. She is able to live at her mansion during her job. She is still able to communicate with her boyfriend in the US despite her distance from him. One important note: Maureen has taken on this job just months after her twin brother died from a heart defect.

One night, Maureen notices something mysterious. Could it be a ghost? She carries on doing her shopping duties normally like nothing happened. However incidents keep coming. She starts to question them. Then one day, she gets a text message from a mysterious person. That could be the ghost. You know the texts are upsetting her each and every time. However, she does agree to play along with the requests of the mysterious texter. She even agrees to wear one of the dresses she bought for Kyra.

Maureen senses that this has something to do about her brother’s death. Could the ghost actually be her brother. The ghost even follows Maureen to the various locations she goes to. Then one day, she finds Kyra dead as if she was brutally murdered. Then she agrees to comply to the texter’s request to go to a hotel. The morning after, we see the ghost vacate the hotel. Maureen is still alive. Maureen decides to go on a vacation to a remote location is Saudi Arabia. Whatever happens, she’s prepared to meet the ghost whom she believes to be her brother.

There have been movies about ghost stories before but most come across as ridiculously cheesy. This is one ghost story that has substance to it, and a lot of it. We have Maureen dealing with the loss of her twin brother. She appears to be handling it well but imperfectly. You’re led to think that the ghost is exposing a truth about how her brother’s death is affecting Maureen. In addition, this is a ghost that affects her through the text messages he sends. It’s obvious he will do whatever it takes to get what he wants out of Maureen.

Basically the thing that gives this ghost movie its substance is that it does relate to human feelings. It’s obvious this ghost has a bearing on Maureen. However as the story progresses, it leaves the audience asking as many questions as Maureen is asking right now. This is no run-of-the-mill movie ghost. This is a ghost that has us intrigued and wondering what will happen next. Will Maureen learn of the ghost’s identity? Will Maureen get killed or hurt? The story keeps us intrigued.

If there’s one weakness, it’s that the story appears to end either twice or three times. I know most people would anticipate the hotel scene to be the climactic end but instead it leads to another story. It’s like the story goes places but stalls. Even the actual ending comes across as abrupt. I know a lot of directors try to end their films unexpectedly as a chance for the audience to draw their own conclusions but this ending was too abrupt and unclear.

The film is a very good effort from writer/director Olivier Assayas. He has created a very good story that keeps us all intrigued. However the flaws at the end are too obvious. Still a very good work. Kristen Stewart does a very good job of acting here. A lot of people have dismissed her acting since the Twilight movies. It turns out her bad acting was because of bad direction. Even before Twilight, she showed she can deliver a good acting job. Remember 2002’s Panic Room? It’s obvious Kristen has something to prove and she’s been proving it since starting with 2014’s Clouds Of Sils Maria, also directed by Olivier Assayas. Kristen delivers possibly her best and possibly deepest performance yet. A bit of ironic trivia: in Assayas’ next work, Idol’s Eye, he will be working with Kristen’s former Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. Can he resuscitate his career too?

Back to the topic of the film, Stewart is the only person who’s given any real acting in the film. For the most part, the other actors are given comparatively lightweight work. That will happen when the protagonist is mostly acting off of a ghost throughout most of the film.

Personal Shopper is for the most part a one-person film that ends too abruptly. Nevertheless it has a lot of excellent qualities that give the film dimension and will keep the audience intrigued.

VIFF 2016 Review: Yourself And Yours (당신 자신과 당신의 것)

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Kim Ju-Hyuck (left) and You-Young Lee play a couple who were meant to be but they don’t know it in Yourself And Yours.

Yourself And Yours isn’t just simply a Korean film that’s a love story. It’s a story about a couple and will leave you wondering whether the two are right as a couple.

The story begins with a young woman named Minjung flirting with men at a nearby soju bar. Some time before Minjung left her boyfriend Youngsoo. Youngsoo heard from someone Minjung was drinking with another man and the meeting ended in a fight. Minjung denies this but Youngsoo is still suspicious. Minjung decides that it’s best the two be apart for some time.

Minjung later meets with an older man. He’s a man Minjung met at a park one given day. Youngsoo hasn’t looked for another woman since Minjung left. Since the time, all Youngsoo can think about is Minjung. He knows he loves her and regrets the way he acted that night. He even goes to the house where he believes Minjung to be residing at with no luck.

Meanwhile Minjung eventually breaks up with the older man. Days later another older man thinks he recognizes Minjung. He believes he rank with her. Minjung denies it but does strike up a conversation with him. Then the older man who Minjung just broke up with returns but Minjung claims not to recognize him. The other man appears to start an argument with him only to later find out they were both classmates in high school many years ago. Both men strike up a friendly conversation completely forgetting about Minjung, who leaves in tears embarassed and heartbroken.

Coincidentally Youngsoo meets up with Minjung. Minjung doesn’t take to friendly towards him at first but she soon starts to warm up to him realizing how much he loves her. They then return back to Youngsoo’s house. Later Youngsoo wakes up without Minjung by his side. He wonders where she went. Then the film ends leaving you feeling this was meant to be.

The film is a bit of a play on both the couple and the two individuals. You see a single Minjung hitting on men and being this woman of mystery even denying past happenings. You see Youngsoo as a man who’s nothing without Minjung. He’s convinced of it. It’s in his heart. You see the moment that led to their split. You see them reconcile unexpectedly and you see the morning after. The film also allows the audient to have their own opinions of both Youngsoo and Minjung individually and as a couple. Youngsoo loves Minjung but should he love her? Especially since she’s the type to deny knowing past boyfriends or past incidents. You are even left wondering if that drunken incident that led to the split was true after all? Is Minjung too deceptive or manipulative of a woman for Youngsoo to love? No wonder the opening of the final scene of Youngsoo alone in bed will get one questioning what next.

The story itself is a good story with a lot of focus on the couple and the individuals. However the film also has many scenes that are too boring or too drawn out. There have been times in which I felt there were scenes that either appeared drawn out or lacked energy or even the proper opening. I think it could have been done better. I know the point of the film is to focus on the relations and present the scenarios but I believe it could have been done with more liveliness.

Writer/director Sang-soo Hong did a very good job with the film. It makes for a n interesting love story despite some scenes seeming to lack the energy. Lee Yoo Yeung was the standout as MinJung. She did a very convincing job of delivering a character of a young woman you could easily question. Kim Ju Hyeok was also good as Youngsoo but I feel his character could have been developed better.

Yourself And Yours is a love story that’s a unique look at love as well as a good focus on the two characters.