Elephant song

Xavier Dolan is everywhere these days. His film Mommy is winning international acclaim and awards, he’s about to embark on an international career, and he stars in Charles Binamé’s Elephant song. 1966. In a psychiatric hospital. Dr. Lawrence has gone missing and it’s up to Dr. Green (Bruce Greenwood) to find out what happened to him. Since Dr. Green is convinced that Michael (Dolan), the last patient to have seen Dr. Lawrence, knows what happened, he meets Michael in Lawrence’s office to investigate. Michael is manipulative, seems to know everything about people private lives. It becomes difficult for Dr. Green to get the truth out of Michael and remain in control of the situation. Meanwhile, Nurse Susan Peterson (Catherine Keener), who brought Michael to Dr. Green, is worried about what will happen in Dr. Lawrence’s office. She knows all about Michael’s mind games and manipulative tricks. Dolan and Greenwood work well together. At first it looks as if Xavier Dolan’s acting was too aloof and mannered. But people who saw Dolan on TV being interviewed see that same kind aloofness and those mannerism that makes him such a peculiar celebrity. Playing Michael, Dolan uses all those to create a unforgetable character. If you compare him to Michael, Dr. Green is a boring character. That makes Bruce Greenwood’s job more difficult. As an actor he has to make Dolan shine, keep the story moving, and make Green an interesting, multilayered person. He is successfully walking on that tightrope. Both actors are well supported by Catherine Keener and the rest of the cast. Charles Binamé has a weird way of building the suspense. He directs Elephant song as if everything, every table, every mirrors, every boxes in Dr. Lawrence’s office knew the secret of his sudden disappearance, as if they were a menace.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Elephant song

Directed by:
Charles Binamé
Screenplay by:
Nicolas Billon
based on his own play
Bruce Greenwood
Xavier Dolan
Catherine Keener
Carrie-Anne Moss
Colm Feore
99 min.
Rated Parental Guidance

87th Academy awards winners

A lot happened between the time the Oscar nominations came out in mid January and last night’s ceremony. Back then Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was the favorite to win Best picture. It was on almost all critics Top Ten lists at number one and won the most awards as Best picture. But what happened that changed the momentum. What made the Academy vote for Birdman? You get angry, and then you remember that in 1941 Orson Welles’s masterpiece (now considered one of the best American film ever), Citizen Kane lost to John Ford’s How green was my valley. ‘Nough said! Here are the winners (in red) for 2014.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Best picture


American sniper (Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan)


Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance) (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole)


Boyhood (Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland)


The grand Budapest hotel (Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson)


The imitation game (Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman)


Selma (Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner)


The theory of everything (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten)


Whiplash (Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster)



Actor in a leading role


Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)


Bradley Cooper (American sniper)


Benedict Cumberbatch (The imitation game)


Michael Keaton (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Eddie Redmayne (The theory of everything)



Actress in a leading role


Marion Cotillard (Deux jours, une nuit) (Two days, one night)


Felicity Jones (The theory of everything)


Julianne Moore (Still Alice)


Rosamund Pike (Gone girl)


Reese Witherspoon (Wild)



Actor in a supporting role


Robert Duvall (The judge)


Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)


Edward Norton (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)


J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)



Actress in a supporting role


Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)


Laura Dern (Wild)


Keira Knightley (The imitation game)


Emma Stone (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Meryl Streep (Into the woods)





Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Richard Linklater (Boyhood)


Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)


Wes Anderson (The grand Budapest hotel)


Morten Tyldum (The imitation game)



Animated feature film


Big hero 6 (Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli)


The Boxtrolls (Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight)


How to train your dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold)


Song of the sea (Tomm Moore and Paul Young)


The tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura)



Writing – Original screenplay


Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Written by Richard Linklater (Boyhood)


Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher)


Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness (The grand Budapest hotel)


Written by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)



Writing – Adapted screenplay


Written by Jason Hall (American sniper)


Written by Graham Moore (The imitation game)


Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent vice)


Screenplay by Anthony McCarten (The theory of everything)


Written by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)





Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Robert Yeoman (The grand Budapest hotel)


Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)


Dick Pope (Mr. Turner)


Roger Deakins (Unbroken)



Production design


Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) (The grand Budapest hotel)


Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration) (The imitation game)


Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration) (Interstellar)


Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) (Into the woods)


Suzie Davies (Production Design); Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration) (Mr. Turner)



Sound mixing


John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin (American sniper)


Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten (Interstellar)


Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee (Unbroken)


Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley (Whiplash)



Sound editing


Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman (American sniper)


Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock (Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance))


Brent Burge and Jason Canovas (The hobbit: The battle of the five armies)


Richard King (Interstellar)


Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro (Unbroken)



Music – Original song


“Everything is awesome” from The Lego movie (Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson)


“Glory” from Selma (Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn)


“Grateful” from Beyond the light (Music and Lyric by Diane Warren)


“I’m not gonna miss you” from Glen Campbell…I’ll be me (Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond)


“Lost stars” from Begin again (Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois)



Music – Original score


Alexandre Desplat (The grand Budapest hotel)


Alexandre Desplat (The imitation game)


Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)


Gary Yershon (Mr. Turner)


Jóhann Jóhannsson (The theory of everything)



Documentary feature


CitizenFour (Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky)


Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof and Charlie Siskel)


Last days in Vietnam (Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester)


The salt of the earth (Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier)


Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara)



Documentary short subject


Crisis hotline: Veterans press 1 (Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry)


Joanna (Aneta Kopacz)


Our curse (Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki)


The reaper (La parka) (Gabriel Serra Arguello)


White earth (J. Christian Jensen)



Short film – Animated


The bigger picture (Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees)


The dam keeper (Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi)


Feast (Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed)


Me and my Moulton (Torill Kove)


A single life (Joris Oprins)



Short film – Live action


Aya (Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis)


Boogaloo and Graham (Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney)


La lampe au beurre de Yak (Butter lamp) (Hu Wei and Julien Féret)


Parvaneh (Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger)


The phone call (Mat Kirkby and James Lucas)



Film editing


Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach (American sniper)


Sandra Adair (Boyhood)


Barney Pilling (The grand Budapest hotel)


William Goldenberg (The imitation game)


Tom Cross (Whiplash)



Costume design


Milena Canonero (The grand Budapest hotel)


Mark Bridges (Inherent vice)


Colleen Atwood (Into the woods)


Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive (Maleficent)


Jacqueline Durran (Mr. Turner)



Makeup and hairstyling


Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard (Foxcatcher)


Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier (The grand Budapest hotel)


Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White (Guardians of the galaxy)



Visual effects


Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick (Captain America: The winter soldier)


Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist (Dawn of the planet of the apes)


Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould (Guardians of the galaxy)


Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher (Interstellar)


Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer (X-Men: Days of future past)



Foreign language film


Ida (Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski)


Leviathan (Russia; Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev)


Tangerines (Estonia; Directed by Zaza Urushadze)


Timbuktu (Mauritania; Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako)


Wild tales (Argentina; Directed by Damián Szifron)


Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is a film about a family being harassed by a corrupt mayor and his associates. Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov) has car repair business on his property, where he lives with his teenage boy, Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) and his second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova). But crooked mayor named Vadim (Roman Madyanov) wants to repossess Kolya’s land. Vadim has the whole town in his pocket. Kolya has hired his friend, Moscow lawyer Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to defend him. When all the appeals have failed, Dmitri tells Kolya that he has dug out documents proving the mayor’s corruption and his previous crimes. Dmitri meets with Vadim and blackmail him. Not only does he want Kolya to keep the land, he also wants some money. Dmitri leaves satisfied that his client will get what Dmitri has demanded. But we know better. A man of God (Heck! Vadim plays God), Vadim regularly meets with the local bishop and attend Russian Orthodox mass. Things are not about to get better for Kolya. His son does not like Lilya. And Kolya finds out that Dmitri and Lilya are lovers. Leviathan is so effective. There is throughout the film a controlled, slowly building gloom and doom atmosphere. The work of cinematographer Mikhail Krichman should be noted. And the ensemble acting. Leviathan is not only a provocative look at Russian society, but a good story well told.

You should know… The story of American welder Marvin Heemeyer was the inspiration for Leviathan. Angered over the outcome of a zoning dispute that cost him his land and his business, Heemeyer armored a bulldozer with layers of steel, concrete and shields of bullet-resistant plastic, and went on a rampage to demolish 13 buildings in the town of Granby, Colorado. He then killed himself.

And the Oscar went to… Russia’s Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, sharply criticized Leviathan portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing vodka-swigging humans and found that there was not a single positive character in the movie. Some Russian journalists criticised director Andrey Zvyagintsev for accepting government subsidies, and asked whether government funding had no influence on the content of the movie. But Zvyagintsev answered that he had always felt completely independent from the Ministry in writing and shooting the movie. Surprisingly, some Metropolitan Bishops called the film “honest”. So, the selection of Leviathan to represent Russia as Foreign language film probably came from the international acclaim the film has been receiving. But Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, from Poland won the Oscar.

Rémi-Serge Gratton



Directed by:
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Screenplay by:
Oleg Negin
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Aleksei Serebryakov
Elena Lyadova
Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Roman Madyanov
Sergey Pokehodaev
140 min.
Rated 14A
In Russian with English subtitles

Deux jours, une nuit (Two days, one night)

After being off work for depression, Sandra Bya finds out that she lost her job at a small solar panels factory. The boss gave her co-workers a choice between getting a 1,000 Euros bonus each or making Sandra’s job redundant. Naturally, most chose the money. But, encouraged by her husband and a supportive co-worker, Sandra persuades her boss to hold another vote. She has literally two days and one night to persuade her co-workers to vote for her. For a woman who just came out of a depression, it is a difficult task. Knocking on every doors of her 16 co-workers, – some of them are friends – feeling like a beggar, miserably asking people she worked with to give up the money they need so that she can keep her job. The fact that Sandra (beautifully played by Marion Cotillard) understands how hard life is for her colleagues, makes it even more difficult for her to ask. While she is doing that, there are periods of self-doubt and the depression is coming back. But her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), understand that if Sandra gives up the fight, desperation will lead to an even bigger depressive state. As some co-workers agree to support her, one becoming a close friend and leaving her husband, it brings some hope But others react with anger and even violent outbursts. From Belgium, the Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne), often deal with realistic social dramas. The film and its topic is very involving and we can all empathize with Sandra’s problem. At one point it threatens to become too lovey-dovey. I thought, “I feel a song coming on”. Sandra was in the car with her new best friend and her husband. The radio was playing a song and the three of them started singing together and tearfully smiling at each other. But at least it wasn’t Kumbaya my lord. Marion Cotillard gives an amazing tour de force performance. It is impressive because she is in every scenes (and almost in every shots) in the film. As we look at Sandra trying to keep her sanity, we witness Cotillard’s internal monologue. And Fabrizio Rongione is excellent as the supportive husband. A very touching, well made and well acted film.

And the Oscar went to… Marion Cotillard got a well deserved nomination in the Actress in a leading role category. But as expected the winner was Julianne Moore as a woman with Alzheimer in Still Alice. Like Moore, Cotillard is in every scenes of Deux jours, une nuit.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Deux jours, une nuit (Two days, one night)


Directed by: 
Jean-Pierre Dardenne and
Luc Dardenne
Screenplay by: 
Jean-Pierre Dardenne and
Luc Dardenne
Marion Cotillard
Fabrizio Rongione
Catherine Salée
Baptiste Sornin
Pili Groyne
95 min.
Rated Parental Guidance
In French with English subtitles

Félix et Meira

Montreal director Maxime Giroux’s Félix et Meira is about the troubled love between Meira (Israeli actress Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish woman, and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Québécois bachelor. Meira is married to Shulem (excellent Luzer Twersky), and the couple has a young daughter. But Meira is terribly unhappy with the constraint of religion. She likes to draw pictures in little notebooks, and when her husband is away she secretly listens to R&B records. Félix, who just lost his father, meets Meira at a café in their neighbourhood, and he initiates a conversation about her faith and how they deal with grief. She’s reluctant to speak to him until he shows her one of his drawings. This new friendship quickly becomes love. When Shulem finds out, he reacts at first violently towards Félix. But Shulem is no fool, and is very aware that his wife is unhappy. He visits Félix to talk about the situation. They understand each other more than they think. All it takes is to walk in the other person’s shoes. Giroux’s delicate film was beautifully filmed in Montreal during winter. That frames both Félix’s grief and Meira’s discontent. I highly recommend.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Félix et Meira


Directed by: 
Maxime Giroux
Screenplay by: 
Maxime Giroux
Alexandre Laferrière
Martin Dureuil
Hadas Yaron
Luzer Twersky
Anne-Élisabeth Bossé
Benoît Girard
Melissa Weisz
105 min.
In French, English, and
Yiddish with English subtitles

2014 Cannes international advertising festival

Every year, publicists from every corner of the world bring their ads to the Cannes international advertising film festival. The commercials are judged and, just as in the Olympics, there is bronze, silver and gold prizes awarded. Those awards are called ‘Lions’, and they may be awarded to the overall quality or a specific craft, such as directing, cinematography, visual effects or editing. 2014 Cannes international advertising film festival puts together all the winners at last summer’s competition. Television used to be about the only place you could see a commercial, preferably between two programs or on a commercial break, so the stations could make money. Those ads are short (less than a minute). But with computers in our homes, they have been getting longer, more like short films. Two of those longer films are my favorites of this year’s crop. Both are from the same series promoting road security, produced in France, and tell the stories of people living with the consequences of road accidents. Another has three kids impersonating their respective fathers driving while they’re on drugs. Cringe worthy funny but effective. There are loads of car commercials, (Volkswagen has the most). The most visually stunning is a Honda ads that start with a bolt, a man takes the bolt, transforms it into a bike, then it becomes a car, then a truck, and so forth. In previous editions, the films were funnier. But overall, they have better production values.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


 2014 Cannes international advertising festival


Directed by: 
Various directors
About 120 minutes
Rated 14A


Winter sleep (Kis uykusu)

2014 Cannes film festival’s Palme d’Or winner, Winter sleep, tells the tale of Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a former actor, owner of a mountaintop hotel resort in Cappadocia, Turkey. He lives there with his young wife, Nihal (Melisa Sözen), and his sister Necla (Demet Akbag). The bearded, disheveled and taciturn Aydin also owns houses which he rents out to impoverished tenants. One day the son of his tenant, İsmail, throws a stone at Aydin’s jeep, breaking a window. The situation is not helped by the fact the İsmail has been unable to pay the rent. Winter coming and the hotel clients leaving makes Aydin unhappy. He spends most of his time writing a newspaper column and planning a book on the history of Turkish theater. Necla and Aydin fight, with Necla criticising his writing. Later on, when his wife organizes a school fundraiser meeting at the hotel, Aydin becomes very negative. They fight and he decides to leave for Istanbul. Aydin is a very unsympathetic character with a sence of entitlement. I found Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s previous film, Once upon a time in Anatolia, much more to my liking. But at a running time of over three hours, with a series of long conversations (one of them 20 long minutes), it was difficult to stay awake, Palme d’Or or not.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


 Winter sleep (Kis uykusu)


Directed by: 
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Screenplay by: 
Ebru Ceyland
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Based on the short story,
“The Wife”, by Anton Chekhov
Haluk Bilginer
Melisa Sözen
Demet Akbag
Ayberk Pekcan
Serhat Kiliç
Nejat Isler
Tamer Levent
Nadir Saribacak
Mehmet Ali Nuroglu
Emirhan Doruktutan
196 min.
Rated 14A
In Turkish and English with English subtitles

Red army

Red army is a new documentary about Russian hockey team HC CSKA Moscow (Central sport club of the army or the Red army club). But it is not only about hockey. Through the life and career of legendary player Vyacheslav ‘Slava’ Fetisov, Red army also shows the changes that happened in Russian politics and society. Fetisov started his professional career in the mid 70s. He was very close to his first coach, Anatoly Tarasov. Tarasov used ballet and chess, and you can see, in archival footage, how flexible the players were asked to be, doing somersaults and pirouettes while skating. The least you can say is that CSKA was an unbeatable hockey team. The pride of Rusia. One of their biggest defeat came at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., when the American team beat the Soviets. That one still hurts Fetisov thirty-five years later. When the Brezhnev government replaced Tarasov by Viktor Tikhonov, practice camp started to be run like an army camp. Players practiced for 10 to 11 months a year, were confined to barracks with very little time allowed to visit their wives and children. Fetisov and the other players hated Tikhonov and his dictatorial coaching style. They were not allowed to go play in the NHL for the US or Canada until Glasnost in the late 1980s. Russian players in the NHL were not very popular at first. There is a clip of Coach’s corner where Don Cherry rails against them. Slava Fetisov first played for the New Jersey Devils in 1989 with not much success. Later on, five of the old teammates from CSKA Moscow were reunited by Scotty Bowman (interviewed for the film) to play for the Detroit Red Wings. They became known as ‘The Russian five’, and helped the Wings win two back-to-back Stanley Cups. Back in Russia, Fetisov was President Vladimir Putin’s Minister of sport from 2002 to 2008. This is a fascinating and fun documentary. Red army can be of interest to hockey fans, of course, but to non-fans as well.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Red army


Directed by: 
Gabe Polsky
Screenplay by: 
Gabe Polsky
88 min.
Rated Parental Guidance
In English and Russian with English subtitles