My Top 10 Movies of 2013

I’m glad I waited until now to do my Top 10 list. Being at a house with access to Netflix allows me to see some I missed back when they were out. For early reference, here are my past lists: from 2002-2010, 2011 and 2012. Now here’s my list of the Top 10 Films of 2013 and five honorable mention picks:

Will Forte (left), Bruce Dern (centre) and June Squibb (right) go on what appears to be a surprise homecoming, only to not be in Nebraska.


  1. Nebraska
  2. Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Twelve Years A Slave
  4. Gravity
  5. The Great Beauty
  6. Captain Phillips
  7. Blue Jasmine
  8. Her
  9. The Wolf Of Wall Street
  10. Frozen

Honorable Mention:

  • Blue Is The Warmest Color
  • Philomena
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • American Hustle
  • Before Midnight

Oscars 2013 Shorts Review

CinemaI saw the Oscar-nominated shorts yesterday and this makes it the sixth year in a row I’ve seen them. However it almost wasn’t the case. By the time I arrived for the first segment, for the animated shorts, news was they were all sold out and those interested had to stand in a rush line. By the time the rush line were allowed, only those with orange tickets could get in. That had me waiting for a bit longer. Fortunately I was able to get in but I was probably the fourth-last in and my friend the third-last.

Nevertheless I was able to see all the shorts. And I’m able to give you all my thoughts as well as my picks for what Should Win and what Will Win:


  • Get A Horse! – dir. Lauren MacMullan – If you’ve seen Frozen, you’ve already seen this short. At first you think this is a Disney cartoon from the 1930’s until Peg-Leg Pete gets nasty with Mickey and punches him off through the theatre screen and into the present as 3D. The whole story is a battle between the good characters and Peg-Leg Pete which has them all going from the black-and-white past to the 3D color present with humorous results. Very entertaining and funny and that’s why I pick it as my Will Win pick.
  • Mr. Hublot – dirs. Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares – This is very unique and also quite futuristic. It’s of a robot man who has a robot dog as a pet. He’s man’s best friend but gets bigger and bigger over time. So what’s Mr. Hublot to do? The short is more focused on the animation than in telling the story. It comes off as both intriguing and quite charming.
  • Feral – dir. Daniel Sousa – This may remind some of the 1960’s French film The Wild Child. This 2D film is of a boy found in the wilds of the wood by a hunter. He is taken and raised to be a human but finds at times he has to rely on his animal skills for survival. This short reminds us that not all the stories involve humor. Some are dark. This 2D short does capture the darkness of the story and one can get an understanding of it without any dialogue.
  • Possessions  – dir. Shuhei Morita – This is a unique style of Japanese anime: not of the style we commonly call ‘anime.’ This was not too focused on the plot as it was about the style of animation and the entertainment factor. Nevertheless very colorful and very entertaining. It also included a lot of elements of Japanese culture which I really liked. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick.
  • Room On The Broom – dir. Jan Lachauer & Max Lang – This is another entertaining short from the team of animators responsible for the Gruffalo shorts. Here they tell a different story of a witch with a broom whom she first uses for herself and her cat. Soon other animals find a place on it until it becomes too small and it stars to break. Features voices of Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins. Very charming story which is great for all ages. It will also remind you of the Gruffalo shorts.


  • Helium – dir. Anders Walter – This Danish short is of Alfred, a dying boy striking an unlikely friendship with Enzo, the hospital janitor. Enzo tells him the story of a place called Helium where he’s about to head to. The place is a wonderful fantasy world. The problem is that Alfred’s condition worsens as the story nears its end. Enzo has to tell Alfred about his trip to Helium before he dies but Enzo being a janitor is not allowed in the area. The story keeps from being your typical story of a dying child that pulls at your heartstrings. Instead it aims for a happy ending. It’s as much a nice trip to a fantasy world as it is a drama. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick. It could pull an upset to the one I think will win.
  • The Voorman Problem – dir. Mark Gill – This British short stars appearing as a drama but comes off as a surprise in the end. Dr. Williams feels he’s dealing with yet another mentally ill person when he’s dealing with a man named Voorman. Voorman tells him all sorts of bizarre and eccentric things, even how he destroyed the country of Belgium. Dr. Williams tells his encounters to his wife but is in for a surprise. A bigger surprise awaits him in what would be his last interview with Voorman. The best quality is its unpredictability and surprise ending.
  • Just Before Losing Everything – dir. Xavier Legrand – This French short starts off as a melodrama that you think is about the young boy Julien. Instead things take  sharp turn as Julien’s mother Miriam picks him up and his sister who leaves her boyfriend in tears. Turns out the mother is hiding herself and her children from her abusive husband and seeks the department store she works at as her refuge. Then her husband shows up. Excellent drama that’s very true to life and you don’t know what will happen next, even though you hope for the best result. That’s why this is my Will Win prediction.
  • That Wasn’t Me – dir. Esteban Crespo – The story begins as international doctors going to work in a village in Africa only to be held at gunpoint by child soldiers and then held hostage by an angry and accusative warlord. Frequent flash-forwards to when the young boy soldier is all grown up and telling his story to an audience. The drama of what takes place and how he’s able to escape is a painful reminder of child soldiers but also a message of hope that they can find a way out. Very well-played out and passes on a good message.
  • Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything? – dir. Selma Vilhunen – This Finnish short is actually a comedy. A family overslept and is late for a wedding. they’re in a rush to dress themselves and their children. The parents get themselves ready fine but their daughters end up in Halloween costumes. They forgot their present so they take their plant instead. even after they drop it while running to the church and smash the pot, they still take the plant there. The ending is a hilarious surprise. Definitely the funniest of the five and succeeds in entertaining in the seven minutes it has.

And there you have it. My thoughts and predictions of the five nominees from both shorts categories. Any of the five can win. I remember last year the ones I thought would win didn’t. We’ll just see which ones win on Oscar night. For those that want to know my predictions for all the other categories, click here.

Oscars 2013: And The Winner Is…

Like my chocolate Oscar? Find out who wins the real ones Sunday.
Like my chocolate Oscar?
Find out who wins the real ones Sunday.

Yep, the Oscars will be given out this Sunday. Those of you who were offended by Seth MacFarlane’s hosting last year, it’s your fault. You should know Seth is known for his envelope-pushing humor as demonstrated over the years in The Family Guy, American Dad and Ted. And he wasn’t going to soften anything for the Oscars. That’s his style.

Anyways enough of last year. This year will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. She’s an entertainer most can trust and she even proved herself a good Oscar host seven years ago.

Once again, I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees. This makes it the thirteenth year in a row in which I’ve done such. And I’m ready again to make my predictions for who Should Win and Will Win. Also all the Best Picture nominees as well as some of the other predictions will feature links to my full reviews of the movie. Anyways here I go:


For this, I will give a brief review of the nominees one by one. As I said earlier, if you click on the titles you’ll get my full reviews:

  •  American Hustle– It seems as though these past two years, there’s been at least one film the critics just love but I can’t understand why all the rage. Last year was Django Unchained. This year it’s American Hustle. It’s because it does not make a lot of sense what this movie is to be about. No real focus. Or if there is, it doesn’t make it clear to us.
  • Captain Phillips– This is the most underrated movie of the nine nominees. The best quality is that it takes a no-nonsense approach and makes one think that these moments are actually happening. The terrorists were very believable. The doctors and armed forces were very believable in their roles. And Tom Hanks was excellent. It was a shame he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor.
  • Dallas Buyers Club– This is the best of the indie films. Matthew McConaughey and Jaret Leto do great character acting in a story that will not only keep one intrigued but also have one thinking about a topic that’s still present today: a drug system slow to approve. Deserving of a Best Picture nomination but lacking aspects for the win.
  • Gravity-This was thrilling and entertaining from start to finish. It featured excellent acting from Sandra Bullock and a lot of qualities in both filmmaking and visual effects seen before. It has finished behind Twelve Years A Slave at major awards shows. However I’m well-convinced that it could win it here, especially with all the directing awards Alfonso Cuaron has won. That’s why this is my Will Win pick.
  • Her-This is an odd movie that manages to charm and actually make sense. However it doesn’t look Best Picture-worthy against the main favorites of this year. Not that it matters too much to Spike.
  • Nebraska-This is my sentimental favorite. This is another winner from Alexander Payne. However it’s up against other movies with bigger buzz and a bigger box office draw. We shouldn’t forget that sometimes a low box office performance can decrease a film’s Oscar buzz.
  • Philomena-This is an very good story with very good acting. Even the story doesn’t come out as harsh as one would anticipate at the beginning. However this doesn’t appear to be Best Picture-worthy. Not while there are other nominated films with more muscle and more juice.
  • Twelve Years A Slave-I thought it was excellent and astonishing for its brutally truthful depiction of slavery. It has a lot of human elements in the film too. That’s why this is my Should Win pick. It has won loads of Best Picture accolades but I think it may stop short at the Oscars because of Gravity‘s Best Director boost. That’s one key ingredient that helps for the win of Best Picture.
  • The Wolf Of Wall Street-Once again, Scorsese shells out a film that’s sure to create an impact and has all the making of a Best Picture nominee. However the film is too over-the-top to deserve the Oscar win. There are times in which I wonder if some scenes were included in for the sake of shock value.


-Should Win: Steve McQueen – Twelve Years A Slave – I hope in the future, Steve includes his middle name or middle initial in the credits to differentiate himself from the Steve McQueen. Anyways if I were a member of the Academy, he’d get my vote for his unflinching and brutal portrayal of slavery during the 18th century. I also give him the credit for making this film a human story as well.

-Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity – Cuaron has received most of the directing accolades this year and rightly so. Firstly because he directs a film that intensely focuses on a single character, rarely taking its eyes off her. Secondly, because he directs a film that’s intended to flawlessly look like a trip in space. He works the simulation to a tee. I didn’t notice a technical glitch at all. It completely convinced me Ryan and Matt were in space.


-Should Win: Bruce Dern – Nebraska – This was a tough call between him and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Twelve Years A Slave but I went with Bruce. Firstly because he played a character whom many moviegoers would feel for. Secondly because portraying an elderly man with memory loss and senility takes a lot of physical acting effort on its part. Bruce was believable from start to finish.

-Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club – I may feel that Bruce Dern and Chiwetel were the best leading male performances of the year but McConaughey is not undeserving of the Oscar. He portrayed an excellent role that was challenging in terms of both character acting and physical acting. he also had to lose a lot of weight for that role too. Great job.


-Should Win and Will Win:  Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine Okay I know I’m making my call just a day after finally seeing Blue Jasmine but I wanted to find out what all the buzz is about and it got my answer. Cate played an excellent character whom will make us want to laugh at, look down upon, but also feel for them in the end. That was a complicated deal that Cate pulled off.


-Should Win and Will Win:  Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club – I know his performance has been all the rage with the awards juries. And rightly so. His performance was complicated as he had to play a transsexual character that was both comical and tragic. Not only did he succeed in that, he also succeeded  in stealing the movie from Matthew McConaughey at times. Great job.


-Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – Twelve Years A Slave – Oddly enough, she’s not the only big screen debut performance to get nominated. Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips is the other. Lupita succeeds in giving the audience a character one can feel sympathy for without guilt. You can see the torture, both physical and mental, in her.

-Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle – Jennifer Lawrence has quite the resume stacked up at the tender age of 23. Already she’s been nominated by the Academy three times including one from last year that won Best Actress. It’s a tight race between her and Lupita but I think she’ll win. Even though I want Lupita to win, I don’t think Jennifer’s undeserving. Playing that ‘Wife Of A Thousand Leagues’ was quite the character.


-Should Win: Bob Nelson – Nebraska – This was a stronger year for original scripts than last year. I took a liking to this script of all the original script nominees. Firstly because it has all the makings for a cheesy movie but it becomes a work of excellence instead. Secondly because it succeeds in having the audience feel for the protagonist. I was very impressed.

-Will Win: Spike Jonze – Her – Spike is usually known for offbeat films with eccentric scripts thanks tho the likes of Charlie Kaufman. Here Spike does one of his own. It does have an unusual story line but it is one that oddly makes sense and even offers a glimpse into the future. I just hope people don’t end up dating computerized personas.


-Should Win & Will Win:  John Ridley – Twelve Years A Slave – The original scripts may have had the competitive edge this year but the adapted screenplays were also very strong.  The best of the bunch was the script from Twelve Years A Slave. It was excellent for its intensity and brutal truthfulness about slavery.

Just Three More:


-Should Win and Will Win: Frozen – Okay, I admit this is the only nominee in the Animated Feature category I’ve seen. I still consider it a remarkable film with funny characters, charming songs and mesmerizing animation. And to think it’s still in the Box Office Top 10 just 14 weeks after its original release! Talk about a phenomenon.

Bonus Prediction:  Since we’re on the topic of Frozen, I predict the song Let It Go to win the Best Original Song category. I can’t think of another song this year, or even in the past five years for that matter, that has been as catchy.


-Should Win and Will Win: The Great Beauty (Italy) – Okay I admit that just like Frozen, this is the only nominee in this category I’ve seen. Nevertheless it is a great intimate story with intriguing characters and awesome cinematography. I was very impressed when I saw it Tuesday night. Hard to find a movie that will challenge it.

Here are some of my predictions for the other categories. In these, I will only predict who I think Will Win:


Catherine Martin & Beverly Dunn – The Great Gatsby


Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity


Patricia Norris – Twelve Years A Slave


20 Feet From Stardom


Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger – Gravity


Dallas Buyers Club


Steven Price – Gravity








Click Here For Predictions


Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

And there you have it. My predictions for Sunday’s Oscars. Winners to be decided there and then. Let’s hope the wins go to the right movies. Also let’s hope Ellen delivers another winning show.

Oh yeah, here’s a bonus:

Other Nominated Movies I’ve Reviewed:

Saving Mr. Banks

Before Midnight

Star Trek Into Darkness

Iron Man 3

2013 Box Office In Review: A Record-Breaker


The success of 2013’s box office looked like a big question mark during the first half of the year. Things looked more optimistic during the summer but 2013 all ended on a positive note.

You may remember when I looked at the first six months of 2013, I didn’t think 2012’s record would be broken. The summer of 2013 however provided a big boost to the year with possibly the highest-grossing movie summer ever. Even with all the bad news that made headlines, it showed the good news that was being overlooked. Anyways here’s how the rest of 2013 fared off.

September began with The Butler and We’re The Millers still going strong and a big plus from the teen girls demograph with the One Direction concert movie. Then comes what’s known in the movie year as the September slump. The sizzle of wowing people to the cinemas starts cooling down now that everyone’s done their vacations and heading either back to work or back to school. This September did have attractions to the cinema but it wasn’t as attractive as last year.

The first post-Labor Day weekend in September began with Riddick on top. It was the only big debut that weekend. The following weekend got better with Insidious Chapter 2 opening at $40.3 million: the second-highest September opening weekend ever. The following weekend also had excitement, albeit comparatively tame, with Prisoners on top. The final weekend of September had Cloudy with A Chance Of Meatballs 2 on top with $34 million: the fourth-highest September opening weekend ever. At the end of the month, this September didn’t fare so hot. It’s total of $461.8 million was almost $100 million lower than last September and was the lowest-grossing September since 2004.

Despite September’s let-down, October was a huge pick-me-up. You can thank most of it to a certain movie called Gravity. Right in the first weekend, you knew Gravity would be a major hit as it opened at $55.8 million: the highest-grossing October opening weekend ever. Gravity reigned on top for three weeks despite the challenges of Captain Phillips and the remake of Carrie. It would take Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa to dethrone Gravity from the top spot in the last weekend October 2013. At the end, October 2013 outgrossed October 2012 by about $70 million. So things were getting back on track. This was not however the highest-grossing October ever. 2004 is by miles with $809 million.

November is normally when the box office picks up again and consists of openings and total grosses that can rival the summer. November actually began calmly with good but modest opening weekends for Ender’s Game, Last Vegas and Free Bird. Things got more exciting when Thor: The Dark world opened the following weekend with $85.7 million. It stayed on top for another weekend as the debut of The Best Man Holiday wasn’t enough to dethrone it from the top. However it would be the following weekend that would be buzzing as it would be the opening of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It opened with $158.1 million: the sixth-highest opening weekend ever and the highest-ever November opening weekend. Catching Fire continued strongly in the last weekend of November leading into December with a total gross of almost $280 million at the end of November. November 2013 ended with a total gross of $1.398 billion. It was more than $140 million less than November 2012 but it was still enough to be the second-highest November gross ever.

December began not with a strong opening on top but a strong steady growth by Frozen on top. Frozen was actually second to Catching Fire by almost $7 million at the November 30th/December 1st weekend. However a strong steady growth for Frozen that was able to capitalize on Catching Fire’s fade found itself stealing the top spot by $5.5 million. Weak debuts from other movies sure helped that week too. However it was the following weekend that promised excitement as the latest Hobbit movie, The Desolation Of Smaug, was going to debut. A strong debut it was with $73.6 million that weekend–the fourth-highest December opening weekend ever– but it was comparatively paltry to the debut of last year’s Hobbit movie: $11 million shy to be exact. Smaug’s buzz was strong enough even to conquer the buzz of the highly-anticipated opening of Anchorman 2 by $5.5 million. The Christmas weekend of the 27th to the 29th made for a low overall gross that weekend. Weather disasters and catastrophes nationwide had a lot to do with it. That weekend saw the Top 4 movies being previously released movies with only The Wolf Of Wall Street having the strongest opening weekend with a #5 debut. The surprise of it all is that December 2013 only failed to outgross December 2012 but just $4 million. The weather problems didn’t hurt the box office that bad.

The big surprise of the box office was for the whole year. In 2013, there were only four months where its total gross outgrossed the monthly totals of 2012. At the end of it all, the whole year of 2013 was a record-breaking year with a total gross of $10.92 billion. That breaks 2012’s record by almost $85 million, roughly 0.8%. It does seem like a small increase but it just goes to show it’s not completely about spectacular opening numbers. The annual box office is an endurance game too. The year’s record-breaking gross is an optimistic statistic since the box office was constantly feeling the pinch of sites like Netflix and the increasing video game industry. This also makes it the fifth straight year where the total annual gross was more than $10 billion dollars showing that despite its rivalries in the entertainment industry, box office movies still remain a strong and healthy business.

Leading into 2014, there are the questions of whether it will break 2013’s total record and even become the first movie year to gross over $11 billion. I don’t think we should worry about that too much especially knowing that 2001 was the first ever year to break past the $8 billion barrier. Instead let 2014 play itself out and hope that it delivers for everyone.


“Yearly Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by

“Monthly Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by

“Weekend Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by

A VIFF 2013 Wrap-Up: Better Year Than Expected


The 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped up show on Friday, October 11th. Almost 350 films were shown on nine different screens in seven movie venues over the sixteen days. This year was expected to be a nervous one as it was trying to fit a new venue format but it worked out well in the end.

Getting used to new venues was part of this year’s VIFF. It was with that with us volunteers, the supervisors and the VIFF heads. The theater I volunteered at, the SFU Woodwards, was unique that it was located in the Woodwards Square of Gastown. It’s also a campus for film and theatre students of Simon Fraser University. The theatre itself was very good. It’s both a screen and a classroom with a seating capacity of 350. Also the theatre didn’t have concessions but the shopping square had no shortage of eating facilities.

One of the challenges of this year was separating moviegoers from students. Another was knowing how to set up lines. The venue consisted of the main floor, second floor and theatre on the third floor. On the first day we had the box office on the main floor and throughout the VIFF. Thus we’d have the ticketholders on that floor. We’d organize passholders in a line in the outdoor area of the second floor. On the third day we’d have ticketholder and passholder lines all outside. That became a concern because of the rain. After that we returned to having ticketholders indoors on the first and passholders indoors on the second. A bit of getting used to.

I was able to take advantage of my film viewing opportunities as often as I could. One highlight was the Rio Theatre showing films at 11:30 in the evening. That was actually one of my best chances to see films. Yes, I’d be very tired the following morning but it was worth it for my VIFF fix.  This year featured an additional treat for volunteers however it would have to wait until after the Festival was officially finished. The treat was free films for the repeat screenings in the week that followed the Festival. Volunteers were allowed only 5% of the seats during the actual Festival but repeats allowed for 20% of the seats up for volunteers. That explains why you see so many of my reviews coming late. It was great for me because it allowed me to see three more films and do some more volunteering at the SFU Woodwards Theatre. Oh yeah, that’s another thing. VIFF repeats were not strictly limited to the Vancity theatre this year. They also added in repeat screenings at both the Rio and the SFU Theatre on Saturday and Sunday. I volunteered at SFU that Sunday and finished the night taking stuff from both SFU and the Rio back to the storage of the main VIFF office downtown.

Those who’ve followed my blog may have noticed I saw sixteen films in total both at this year’s VIFF and the week of repeats. They came from many countries around the world like the US, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Croatia, I could go on. The list could even be extended if I add in filming locations like Laos, Cambodia, Cuba or India. The films ranged from dramas, to comedies to thrillers to documentaries to horror films. The quality ranged anywhere from film for art’s sake to moviemaking to getting their message across. The material ranged from entertainment-driven to message-driven to envelope-pushing to family friendly. I also saw two nation’s official entries for Best Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Oscars: Heli and The Rocket. One thing I felt I missed out on this year was my fix of short films. I did get a fix of it over at the reel Youth Film Festival but I would have liked to have seen more shorts shows. Also I only saw two Canadian films. Hopefully I’ll see more next year. If you want to see all my reviews of VIFF films, just click here.

The Festival also ended on a positive note for us volunteers. We were all given a volunteer screening at the Vancity Theatre to attend. Actually the VIFF organizers had to do two volunteer screenings of the film in order to accommodate the 700 volunteers for this year. I went to the one that was held late Friday evening. It was a good occasion. Out in the lobby there was your typical party food and we were all treated to at least one free drink. I was able to meet with people I volunteered with. There were door prizes given to people before the movie was shown. Then we were treated to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I actually saw it four years ago but I was cool with seeing it again. Also have you ever noticed the things you see in a movie the second time you forgot you saw the first time?

As for the Festival itself, the Festival films attracted a total of 130,000 in gated admission. As a flat number, that’s 7% lower than last year  and 20,000 shy of 2011’s record but that’s actually a very optimistic number to the VIFF staff. The reason being the new theatre facilities had less total capacity than those of last year and the VIFF staff were anticipating a smaller number. Don’t forget there were some facilities that took some time off from showing VIFF films. Like the SFU theatre had all of Monday the 6th off and the evening off on the 7th. Also the three screens at the International Village stopped showing movies on Sunday the 6th. Media coverage was extensive and mostly positive. Audience and filmmaker feedback was also very good regarding the films shown and the facilities. The VIFF wrap-up report called the ticket numbers ‘a record year.’ I assume that ‘record’ would be based on a per-screening analysis which is a good estimate of over 250 per screening.

Here is this year’s VIFF by the numbers:

-130,000+: gated attendance
-1000+: Film and Television forum delegates
-700+: volunteers
-515: public screenings
-341: films shown

  • 212: feature length (60+ minutes)

-92: Canadian Films shown

  • 31: feature length
  • 55: shorts
  • 6: mid-length

-85: non-fiction films shown

  • 73: feature length
  • 17: Canadian

-75: countries entering films
-64: Canadian premieres
-41: North American premieres
-27: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
-26: World Premieres
-16: days of showing films
-15: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown
-9: screens showing films
-7: theatres participating in the VIFF

Bonus Stats:

-27: media screenings

-26: VIFF repeats

Another year of good numbers. Now I know some of you want to know what were the award winners, right? Here they are:


-LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON  (Japan) dir. Koreeda Hirokazu,


-DESERT RUNNERS (USA) dir. Jenifer Steinman


WHEN I WALK, dir. Jason da Silva


-SALMON CONFIDENTIAL(Canada) dir. Twyla Roscovich


-WADJDA (Saudi Arabia/Germany), dir. Haifaa Al Mansour


-DOWN RIVER, dir. Ben Ratner


-SARAH PREFERS TO RUN (Canada) dir. Chloe Robichaud


-ANATOMY OF A PAPERCLIP (Japan) dir. Ikeda Akira

Runner-Up: TRAP STREET (China), dir. Vivian Qu

Special Mention: FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN (China), dir. Chai Chunya


– (tie)RHYMES WITH YOUNG GHOULS, dir. Jeff Barnaby



-Matthieu Arsenault for NATHAN

Honorable Mention: Timothy Yeung for 90 DAYS


-THE DICK KNOST SHOW, dir. Bruce Sweeney


-LEAP 4 OUR LIFE, dir. Gary Hawes


-Matthew Kowalchuk for LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN

So there you go. Those are the winners of the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival. A good end to a great VIFF. I know this year was a nervous year as we didn’t know what to expect with a new set of theatres to work with. Nevertheless it turned out great and we had our best per-screening rate ever. Next year’s VIFF is scheduled from September 25th to October 10th, 2014 and should be bigger and better. Also I hope one year the VIFF grows to achieve accreditation from the FIAPF: the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. Most of the big Film Festivals are accredited and the VIFF being accredited should definitely add to its attraction. Anyways see you next VIFF!

VIFF 2013 Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle)

Blue Is The Warmest Color is a French lesbian love story that tells more than just a story.
Blue Is The Warmest Color is a French lesbian love story that tells more than just a story.

One of the biggest attractions at this year’s Vancouver Film Festival is the French film Blue Is The Warmest Color. The win at the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film festival will make it an attraction, no doubt. There are some that already know what it’s about and others that don’t. The question is will the crowds be satisfied?

The story starts with Adèle, a young high school student from Paris nearing adulthood and trying to decide what she wants to do with her life especially in times when Europe is going through economic troubles. She’s very involved with her job at day care, but lost in thought during school and unhappy in her relationship with Thomas. She soon leans of her lesbian attractions and starts trying to get as better understanding of it. She even breaks up with Thomas in the process.

Her gay friends from high school introduce her to Paris’ gay scene. She’s exposed to gay culture at one gay bar then visits a lesbian bar for the first time where she meet a tomboy woman with blue hair named Emma. Emma not only introduces Adèle to the lesbian scene but also to her work as an artist. Adèle’s high school friends are surprised with her relationship with Emma but over time the relationship goes from being simply Adèle being the subject of Emma’s art to a full intimate relationship. They share everything. Both are also good with each other’s parents. Both are also supportive as Emma helps with Adèle’s 18th birthday and Adèle cooks for Emma’s art party.

Things mark a turning point at Emma’s art party as Adèle senses something between Emma and Lise, her artistic colleague. Adèle also senses the advances of her boss from the daycare she works at. Eventually she does engage with her boss only for Emma to find out. Emma breaks up with Adèle in a rage leaving Adele frustrated and heartbroken. Months pass and Adèle is now a first grade schoolteacher. Emma is soon to have her first art exhibit opening. They meet again in a café to try and resolve what they can only for Adèle to learn a hard new truth. Adèle goes to the exhibit opening only to leave heartbroken but older and wiser.

The surprising thing about this is how this film tries to portray a relationship between two young girls. Its biggest quality was its truthfulness. It showed a girl-meets-girl scenario that’s often the common way two meet. It shows the relationship and how the two share so much with each other that almost mirrors other relationships. It also shows the friction in relationships with being attracted to another person, infidelity, break-up and aftermath that you will notice in other relationships. I believe that’s the biggest thing about this film. This is not a film that aims for heavy intense dramatic story but rather a film of a lesbian relationship between two young girls that mirrors most relationships people have or have had, possibly even one of your own.

It’s not only about the relationship in the film but also as much about the two main characters too. Adèle is turning 18 and in the midst of deciding what she wants to do with the rest of her life, eventually setting on teaching elementary school. Emma is an older art student and she’s disinterested in conforming to the expectations of the world nor to the art business. Adèle has just recently learned of her same-sex attraction. She slowly tries to learn about it and welcomes it when Emma comes into her life, but questions if she still has attractions and feeling to men. Emma on the other hand knew of her lesbian attraction at 14 and became very comfortable with it. The personality traits of both adds to the story of the relationship as it shows that opposites can attract. It also shows how the two personalities cause friction as Adèle has the common immaturities with an 18 year-old and Emma is a free person but with a fierce attitude.

One of the things of the movie is that it also brings up certain forms of thought. It should not be surprising because Adèle is a student just learning and it’s the student years where one tries to expand their mind. Emma makes mention of Sartre and him creating a intellectual revolution in saying we are ‘condemned to be free.’ Another time we’re in one of Adèle’s science classes seeing a lesson in gravity and one student talks of unavoidable vices and how the Catholic Church tells us that vices should be avoided. There’s also the division of the arts world and the business world that’s also present in the film. Adèle embraces the arts greatly in her own way but wants a career that’s stable especially since the future of the young of France looks uncertain and chooses teaching. Emma on the other hand wants to do what she wants to do and paint what she wants to paint and resists offers to ‘market’ her talent. That pressure of the dilemma of doing what one is born to do vs. doing what pays the rent is a common pressure in the minds of a lot of young people during those years. I remember it was even a pressure for me when I was a college student.

Without a doubt, the biggest thing that got me thinking were the graphic lesbian sex scenes. I know that sex scenes are choreographed but I was still surprised in seeing it’s explicitness. Even though I learned just now that fake genitalia were used, there’s no question that there will be many who will label it ‘pornography.’ In fact the producers refused to edit the film for release in the US and that got it an NC-17 rating.

In all frankness, I did find this a very revealing and intimate look at a lesbian couple but nevertheless I found this film to be too long. I believe if a film is going to be 3 hours long, it should justify its purpose. I really question whether 179 minutes is really necessary for that film because it didn’t appear to justify its length of time. I’m sure the film could’ve done as good a job of telling the story of the relationship if it was even two hours. There are even times when I question if that heavy-duty sexual activity, especially the impulsive activity in the café near the end, really added to the story or was included for shock value. That’s the problem with over-the-top sex scenes in movies: it may be intended for the story but could be taken the wrong way with the public. In fact there were times my ‘inner teenager’ felt like saying: “Owww! Get down!”

The best quality was the acting. Adèle Exarchopoulos did a very good job not just of portraying a young lesbian but also of a young teenage girl on the verge of womanhood. Her mix of a character who’s on the verge of adulthood trying to be more responsible but also dealing with her own immaturities, both behavioral and sexual, made Adèle very believable as a young woman. Lea Seydoux did a great job of playing Emma, the older freer one who’s in control. For those who didn’t notice, Lea is the one who won Owen Wilson’s heart in Midnight In Paris. It’s surprising how she’s completely unrecognizable here. She did a very good job of character transformation. Director/writer Abdelatif Kechiche was really daring in his subject matter and his adaptation of the story. I checked his Wikipedia profile and there’s no mention of himself being gay. Nevertheless He did an excellent job of taking the relationship and making it look so relatable.

The question will remain will Blue Is The Warmest Color go well with the movie-going public? Marketing gay-themes movies to the general public is not an easy task especially with the predominantly heterosexual crowd. Yes there have been films of gay characters and gay relationships that have scored well like Philadelphia, The Hours, Brokeback Mountain and Milk, but it’s still a chancy thing that’s still hit-and-miss with no proven consistent results. Even this being a French-language film may cause some difficulties. I even question if a film like this will score well with the LGBT populations in North America. We should also take in mind that living as a gay man or lesbian in Europe is a lot different that living as a gay man or lesbian in North America. Two different continents with two different social attitudes. Something I question.

Blue Is The Warmest Color is a unique film in its portrayal of a lesbian couple. It has a lot of good qualities that make it worth watching for some but not for others. It all boils down to the individual audient and their tastes and tolerances to decide if this is the right film for them or not.

VIFF 2013: New Year, New Format


Yes, it’s leading up to the Vancouver International Film Festival. It’s to start Thursday September 25th and runs until Friday October 11th. There are a lot of similar expectations from last year that carry over to this year, but there’s one big new expectation for this year.

As noted in my summary of last year’s VIFF, 2012 was the last year it was to be held at the Granville 7 Cinema. The Cinema would continue for another three weeks until it was too close for good and be built into a condominium strata. All the volunteers and supporters of VIFF received a summary email where we were told that there would be a new main facility decided by the spring. The months of waiting would keep us guessing and the changes in the Vancouver movie theatre scene would have many of us nervous. First was the closure of the Ridge Theatre at the beginning of February of this year. The second would happen later that month as Festival Cinemas–the independent cinema group that ran The Ridge, The Park and Fifth Avenue cinemas–ceased existence upon the president’s retirement and left the two remaining cinemas in the hands of bigwig Cineplex Odeon. The question of which main theatre would be in charge of the VIFF left followers further in the dark.

Eventually the news came. The Vancouver Film Festival will be shown on nine screens at seven different locations:

  • International Village Cinema (three screens)
  • Vancity Theatre
  • Cinematheque
  • Centre For Performing Arts
  • Vancouver Playhouse
  • Rio Theatre
  • SFU Woodwards Theatre

So there’s no one central location for this year’s VIFF. This will take some getting used to in its post-Granville 7 era. It’s a shame because the Granville 7 was very instrumental in its growth. In fact I was at the volunteer orientation yesterday and the volunteer leaders mentioned that even they are having to try to get used to the new theatres. So this year’s VIFF will be a challenge but it also promises to show a lot. The fact sheet states that 341 films are slated to be screened: over 200 are feature length and 92 are Canadian. Also those of you who attend the festival will notice the Cineplex logo on our volunteer shirts. That’s our new sponsor. So that’s a plus. Hey, having most of the showings at the International Village Cinema helps.

I’m back to volunteering again this year. This makes it my sixth year in volunteering. I’m looking forward to it. I’m able to get four days off from work to be able to volunteer during the daytime. So I hope to have a good time. I also hope for this to be a record-breaking year. I know it may be too much to expect for a film festival getting used to a new theatre system. Nevertheless it’s possible. Remember that 2011 is the record-setting year.

Wow. Sixteen days over three-hundred films from over 75 countries! The Vancouver Film Festival is back. So get ready to VIFF again!

2013 Box Office: Summer More Sizzle Than Slump

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The news involving the Hollywood box office for the most part has been pretty negative especially in terms of the annual total gross or all the action movie flops this summer. One thing that has been overlooked is the overall success of the summer. It actually did better than most people noticed. Or most journalists took note of.

Continuing from where I last kept track, July was actually a bigger month than most people noticed. Yes, the big news of the action flops of that month like The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, Red 2 and R.I.P.D. What shouldn’t be overlooked were the big successes of the month like the minion power of Despicable Me 2, the goofball comedy of Grown Ups 2, suspense of The Conjuring and even the successful action-packed delivery of The Wolverine. Overlooked by most, 2013 produced the highest-grossing July ever with $1.291 billion: $20 million more than the previous July record set in 2008 and almost $220 million more than July 2012. Funny how the flops made bigger news than the successes.

August also continued the run of success for the summer of 2013. It opened with the success of 2 Guns, continued with the temporary success of Elysium, received surprise successes from We’re The Millers and Lee Daniels’ The Butler and ended on a bright note with the opening of One Direction: This Is Us. At the buzzer, August 2013 grossed $755.4 million: $16.4 million more than August 2012. 2013 is not the highest-grossing August ever as it’s been outgrossed by the Augusts of 2001 and 2007.

So if you want to give a rough estimate of comparing summers, by simply adding up the grosses from May to August of both 2013 and 2012, the summer months of 2013 grossed slightly more than $425 million more than the summer months of 2012. This is a welcome relief after the slumping of the first four months of the year. It doesn’t completely make up the deficit it had over the monthly pace of 2012’s total gross but it does help gain a lot back and reassure us that people still like to go to the movies despite how many forms of entertainment people have.

One thing is the successes and failures of 2013 can teach Hollywood a lot about shelling out movies for the public. I will admit that the news about the constant flopping of the big budget action movies did deserve to be made note of. In fact it continued with Elysium despite how good quality it was. One thing that should have also been taken note of was the low-budget successes that happened. Some of which had quite minimal expectations put on them. First example is the horror drama The Conjuring which made $136 million total all on a budget of $20 million. In fact it debuted at #1 in its opening weekend with a gross more than double its budget. Another example is the oddball comedy We’re The Millers. It never was #1 at the box office but it opened with a healthy opening weekend of $26.4 million and went onto a gross that currently stands at $132 million. This movie had to be the movie that had legs this summer. The most current example is Lee Daniels’ The Butler. That’s not your typical summer fare but it held the #1 spot during the last three weekends of the summer and just hit $100 million this weekend. Hollywood, take note.

It’s not to say that action moves were a complete dud this summer. It actually opened strong with Iron Man 3 and continued with Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z. However the first sign that the crowd was about to tire of this genre was when Man Of Steel didn’t gross as much as hoped. Sure, $291 million is still impressive and has it as the 3rd-highest grossing movie of 2013, but more was expected. I believe that was the first sign that it would be all downhill from here for this summer’s action flicks.

What should be noted is that the biggest winners at the box office were not necessarily the action movies but the animated family movies. Iron Man 3 may have been the highest grossing movie of 2013 so far but Despicable Me 2 is the second-highest. Its Minion Power took it to a total gross of just over $359 million. Monsters University holds as the fourth-highest of 2013 with $265 million. A third animated movie, Epic, also received an impressive total gross of $107 million.

So that sums up the summer of 2013. Action-packed, animatedly-charming and surprises out of left field. For every box office dud, there were hits. The bad news of the summer action flick would lead to good news of this summer’s total gross. Hollywood should learn from this summer and prepare not simply for a better summer but a smarter-planned summer for 2014.

2013 Box Office: The Year In Question

You may remember from my tracking of the box office last year that it was a record-setting year, right? 2013 was given a hard act to follow and so far it hasn’t followed well.
The month of January looked well with the box office topping with Hansel and Gretel, Mama and Zero Dark Thirty but it wasn’t enough to outgross January 2012. February had it tougher when successes from Identity Thief, Warm Bodies and A Good Day to Die Hard failed to even touch February 2012’s results. Actually none of the weekends in February 2013 succeeded in outgrossing the previous year’s weekend. In fact February 2013’s gross of $536 million made it the lowest-grossing February since 2006. March 2013 wasn’t as bad but it also didn’t outgross the previous year. Mind you there was no Hunger Games in March this year. This March’s box office-toppers–Jack The Giant Slayer, Oz: the Great And Powerful, The Croods and G.I. Joe: Retaliation–failed to top with a big bang. There was at least one March weekend this year that did outgross the previous year’s weekend and that was when Oz was on top. Nevertheless the first quarter of 2013 added up to a dismal grossing of $1.85 billion, down half a billion from $2.36 billion: a dip of over 20%.
April 2013 was also lower than the year before. Yeah, not having a movie with buzz like The Hunger Games does hinder. It wasn’t all dismal as the first two weekend’s weekend toppers like Evil Dead and 42 did outgross the weekends the year before. However the spark didn’t carry with weekend toppers like Oblivion and Pain and Gain. May 2013 however was a ray of hope in 2013’s box office year. This came thanks to Iron Man 3 opening the very first weekend. It opening weekend of $174 million was the second-highest opening weekend ever. Oh sure, it didn’t outgross that weekend the year before because opening that weekend last year was opening weekend record-holder: The Avengers. The following weekends kept the buzz rolling with strong showings from Star Trek Into Darkness and The Fast And The Furious 6. As May 2013 came to an end, May became the first month of 2013 to outgross 2012. Its total gross of $1.438 billion set a record as the highest-grossing May ever and outgrossed May 2012 by over $250 million. June however was back to showing the box office struggle of 2013. This June’s box office toppers–Purge, Man Of Steel and Monsters University— lacked the buzz of 2012. In the end June 2013’s gross of $1.1 billion was more than $200 million less than June 2012 and the lowest-grossing June since 2008. Despite the low showings the second quarter of 2013 did show a plus sign. Yes it failed to outgross the second quarter of 2012 but by a slim margin: only $56 million.
So with 2013 halfway done, the box office results are not too impressive right now. Already 2013 is more than half a million behind 2012’s pace and it’s safe to assume 2013 won’t outgross 2012’s record year. Neverhteless there will be attractions in the coming months. This weekend features two action movies–Red 2 and R.I.P.D.–opening this week and even Turbo that actually opened today. Next weekend plans the release of The Wolverine. The first weekend in August plans Two Guns and The Smurfs 2. The following weekend has the action movies Elysium and the Percy Jackson sequel. Other August releases with big buzz is Jobs, Paranoia, Kick Ass 2, The World’s End, The Butler and One Direction: This Is Us. September has Riddick, The Family, Prisoners, Rush and Baggage Claim to perk up what is normally the quietest movie month of the year. October has Gravity, Captain Phillips, Escape Plan and a remake of Carrie to attract crowds. The end of the year promises more attractions like Ender’s Game, Frozen, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and sequels to Thor, The Hobbit, Anchorman and of course The Hunger Games.
So even though 2013’s box office results look like this year won’t be a record-breaker, it doesn’t mean it won’t be a good year to draw people to the theatres. So go out and see a movie. Not for the sake of the box office but for your own enjoyment.


“Monthly Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by

“Weekend Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by

“Quarterly Box Office Chart” 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by