88th Academy awards winners

It was one of the exciting Oscar night I’ve ever seen. The best picture winner was Spotlight, a complete surprise and a breath of fresh air. Chris Rock’s opening monologue hit all the right buttons. He was perfect and throughout the evening the jokes were pretty good. That Lady Gaga moment was a perfect tear-jerker. I’m just sorry she did not win for best song. Otherwise, there was a lot to be thankful for. As expected Mad Max: Fury road won most of the technical awards. Iñárritu got named Best director for a second year in a row. Leo finally received an Oscar, but Sly did not. Todd Haynes’ Carol failed to get a single award, but I was happy that Room’s Brie Larson won Best actress. And what about movie legend Ennio Morricone winning his first Oscar at 87?  Overall, a very good evening. The winners are in red.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Best picture

The big short (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers)

Bridge of spies (Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers)

Brooklyn (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers)

Mad Max: Fury road (Doug Mitchell and George Miller, Producers)

The martian (Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam, Producers)

The revenant (Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon, Producers)

Room (Ed Guiney, Producer)

Spotlight (Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust, Producers)

Actor in a leading role

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Matt Damon (The martian)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The revenant)

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Eddie Redmayne (The Danish girl)

Actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Brie Larson (Room)

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Actor in a supporting role

Tom Hardy (The revenant)

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Mark Rylance (Bridge of spies)

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Christian Bale (The big short)

Actress in a supporting role

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The hateful eight)

Rooney Mara (Carol)

Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Alicia Vikander (The Danish girl)

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)


Adam McKay (The big short)

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury road)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The revenant)

Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Writing (Adapted screenplay)

Carol (Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy)

The martian (Screenplay by Drew Goddard)

Room (Screenplay by Emma Donoghue)

The big short (Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay)

Brooklyn (Screenplay by Nick Hornby)

Writing (Original screenplay)

Bridge of spies (Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)

Ex machina (Written by Alex Garland)

Inside out (Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen)

Spotlight (Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy)

Straight outta Compton (Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff)

Animated feature film

Inside out (Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera)

Shaun the sheep movie (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)

When Marnie was there (Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura)

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran)

Boy and the world (Alê Abreu)


Ed Lachman (Carol)

Robert Richardson (The hateful eight)

John Seale (Mad Max: Fury road)

Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)

Roger Deakins (Sicario)

Production design

Bridge of spies (Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich)

The Danish girl (Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish)

Mad Max: Fury road (Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson)

The martian (Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak)

The revenant (Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy)

Sound mixing

Bridge of spies (Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin)

Mad Max: Fury road (Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo)

The martian (Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth)

The revenant (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek)

Star wars: The force awakens (Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

Sound editing

Star wars: The force awakens (Matthew Wood and David Acord)

Mad Max: Fury road (Mark Mangini and David White)

The martian (Oliver Tarney)

The revenant (Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender)

Sicario (Alan Robert Murray)

Music (Original song)

“Earned it” from Fifty shades of Grey (Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio)

“Manta Ray” from Racing extinction (Music by J. Ralph, Lyric by Antony Hegarty)

“Simple song #3” from Youth (Music and Lyric by David Lang)

“Til it happens to you” from The hunting ground (Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga)

“Writing’s on the wall” from Spectre (Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith)

Music (Original score)

Thomas Newman (Bridge of spies)

Carter Burwell (Carol)

Ennio Morricone (The hateful eight)

Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario)

John Williams (Star wars: The force awakens)

Documentary (Feature)

Amy (Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees)

Cartel land (Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin)

The look of silence (Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen)

What happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes)

Winter on fire: Ukraine’s fight for freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor)

Documentary (Short subject)

Body team 12 (David Darg and Bryn Mooser)

Chau, beyond the lines (Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck)

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah (Adam Benzine)

A girl in the river: The price of forgiveness (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)

Last day of freedom (Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman)

Short film (Animated)

Prologue (Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton)

Sanjay’s super team (Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle)

We can’t live without cosmos (Konstantin Bronzit)

World of tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt)

Bear story (Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala)

Short film (Live action)

Ave Maria (Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont)

Day one (Henry Hughes)

Everything will be Okay (Alles wird gut) (Patrick Vollrath)

Shok (Jamie Donoughue)

Stutterer (Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage)

Film editing

The big short (Hank Corwin)

Mad Max: Fury road (Margaret Sixel)

The revenant (Stephen Mirrione)

Spotlight (Tom McArdle)

Star wars: The force awakens (Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey)

Costume design

Carol (Sandy Powell)

Cinderella (Sandy Powell)

The Danish girl (Paco Delgado)

Mad Max: Fury road (Jenny Beavan)

The revenant (Jacqueline West)

Makeup and hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury road (Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin)

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared (Love Larson and Eva von Bahr)

The revenant (Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini)

Visual effects

Ex machina (Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett)

Mad Max: Fury road (Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams)

The martian (Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner)

The revenant (Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer)

Star wars: The force awakens (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould)

Foreign language film

Mustang (France)

Son of Saul (Hungary)

Theeb (Jordan)

A war (Denmark)

Embrace of the serpent (Colombia)


Arabian nights volume 3: The enchanted one

The last installment of Miguel Gomes’s film Arabian nights takes a different approach to story telling than the first two volume (Arabian nights volume 1: The restless one and Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one) As a canvas, Gomes takes the character of Scheherazade from the middle east book of stories One thousand and one nights to tell his own stories about the effects of austerity measures on the Portuguese. In Arabian nights volume 3: The enchanted one Scheherazade is the main subject of the first segment. As played by Crista Alfaiate, Scheherazade does not seem to have much worries about the future. She is surrounded by other beautiful youths, both male and female, and she even sings beautifully. The second segment is a documentary about bird-trappers who teach their chaffinches a variety of songs for birdsong competitions. The other volumes had a narator telling the stories. Here there is a text on the screen telling us what is happening and its meaning. There is a lot of reading to do. And I mean a lot! As a whole this trilogy of films is daring and unusual. But it is not for everyone.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Arabian nights volume 3: The enchanted one

Directed by:
Miguel Gomes

Screenplay by:
Telmo Churro
Miguel Gomes
Mariana Ricardo
Inspired by One thousand and one nights

Adriano Luz
Americo Silva
Carloto Cotto
Crista Alfaiate
Fernanda Loureiro
Rogerio Samora

125 min.
In Portuguese, English, German and Mandarin with English subtitles

A perfect day

Can you really say you had a good time watching a film about war? If that film is A perfect day, you will. Set in the Balkans during the Yugoslav wars (1991 – 2001), A perfect day follows a group of humanitarian aid workers as they are trying to retrieve the decomposing body of an obese man from a well. Maybe the body was put there to contaminate the well and prevent the locals to have access to fresh water, or to make money by selling water to the locals. Their first attempt fails when the rope they were using breaks. Mambrú (Benicio del Toro ) is the leader of the team. There is B (exquisite Tim Robbins), who is as cynical about the state of the world than Mambrú, he’s just more vocal. And funnier. With them is French aid Sophie (Melanie Thierry), a young idealistic woman, and their interpreter, Damir (Fedja Stukan). So they try to buy a rope, but the local merchants refuse to sell it to them. Things gets more complicated when military bureaucrats forbids the sanitizing of wells. Joining the four aid workers is a local boy named Nikola (Eldar Residovic), and Katya (Olga Kurylenko), who was once Mambrú’s lover. The problems they encounter are unusual and dangerous. They know, for instance, that if a dead cow is spread in the middle of the road, it’s a trap. There is probably a mine on either side and they have to decide if they go right or left. This is not a perfect film, but it offers a interesting vision of war: War is stupid and absurd, might as well laugh about it a little.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

A perfect day

Directed by:

Fernando León de Aranoa

Screenplay by:

Fernando León de Aranoa

Diego Farias

Based on the novel Dejarse Llover by Paula Farias


Benicio del Toro

Tim Robbins

Olga Kurylenko

Melanie Thierry

Fedja Stukan

Eldar Residovic

106 min.

In English, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and French with English subtitles.

Rams (Hrútar)

Gummi loves his sheep. He hugs and cuddle them as if they were his babies. Every year he brings his best sheep and enters it in the local competition. This year Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) loses. The winning sheep belongs to his estranged brother, Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson). Gummi and Kiddi have barely spoken to each in the last forty years. Both unmarried brothers are sheep farmers and next door neighbours. They’re so close in fact that from his window Gummi can see all of Kiddi’s daily activities. Then it is discovered that Kiddi’s award-winning sheep is infected with “scrapie”, and this means slaughtering all the flocks in the county. The relationship between the two brothers worsens because it is Gummi that notified the authorities about the infected sheep. As a result, Kiddi’s drinking increases, he threatens Gummi, shoots at Gummi’s house with a riffle and refuses to co-operate with the authorities in the cleaning of his barn. As for Gummi, he managed to hide some of his prize-winning sheep in the basement. We know that someone will find out, we just don’t know when or how. Beside the breathtaking Icelandic landscape, Rams offers us a poignant portrait of the Icelandic male in all its glory. Both Gummi and Kiddi (and actors Sigurjónsson and Júlíusson) are cuddly, bearded bears who love their sheep. Do they finally reconcile after all these years? On that topic, I’ll stay quiet. I’ll just tell you that Rams is at times funny and at times tragic. It’s a very unusual film. Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams is very moving.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Rams (Hrútar)

Directed by:
Grímur Hákonarson

Screenplay by:
Grímur Hákonarson

Sigurður Sigurjónsson
Theodór Júlíusson
Charlotte Bøving
Jon Benonysson
Gunnar Jónsson

93 min.

In Icelandic with English subtitles.

Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one

Volume 2 of the Miguel Gomes Arabian nights trilogy is the best and the more conventional of the three films, if you can call those films conventional. It is a modern spin the One thousand and one nights collection of middle east stories. But the stories told by Scheherazade are about Portuguese people living in poverty due to austerity measures imposed on them by the government. In Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one there are only two segments. The first one is about a judge who become “desolate” when she realize that every witness in her court has become a criminal or the victim of a crime. Every cases keeps getting worse. The star of the second segment is a cute little dog named Dixie. Dixie goes from homes to homes because her masters just don’t have the means to keep a dog. These ambitious films are a hard sell and certainly no for all, but it is about an important topic and they deserve to be seen.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Arabian nights volume 2: The desolate one

Directed by:

Miguel Gomes

Screenplay by:

Telmo Churro

Miguel Gomes

Mariana Ricardo

Inspired by One thousand and one nights


Adriano Luz

Americo Silva

Carloto Cotto

Crista Alfaiate

Fernanda Loureiro

Rogerio Samora

131 min.

In Portuguese, English, German and Mandarin with English subtitles

The lady in the van

At 81 years old, Dame Maggie Smith proves with her latest film that there is still nothing she can’t do. She is a star. I’ll just mention Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter films as proof of her longevity. In The lady in the van, Smith plays Mary Shepherd, a homeless woman living in her van. Shepherd was a real person. Playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) let Miss Shepherd park her van and stay in his driveway for 15 years. Bennett himself adapted his own 1999 play for the screen. Smith reprises the role she played in the original 1999 theatrical production. Bennett’s difficult relationship with Shepherd starts when she parks her van on the street where he lives. The film was shot in the house where the real events took place on Gloucester Crescent, in London’s Camden Town. Miss Shepherd is not the easiest woman to have as the neighborhood bag lady. That’s what she is. There are bags stuck under the van and she sleeps in that van surrounded by bags. Mary Shepherd was probably suffering from some form of mental illness. In the film, Shepherd cannot stand to hear music, she screams every time children sing or someone plays the flute, she stinks, the van stinks and she’s aggressive to anyone she meets. Bennett and Shepherd became more acquainted after he first allowed her to use his washroom. When new bylaws would have made it possible for her van to be towed, Bennett agreed to let her park her van in his driveway. When Bennett digs into Shepherd’s past he finds out that her real name was Margaret Fairchild, she was actually a classical pianist. He also learns that her van was hit by a motorcyclist and that the incident terribly traumatized her. The material shows its theatrical origins with a gimmick: The play and the film has two Alan Bennetts, the writer and the one who lives the life of Alan Bennett. The first Alan only sits and writes while the second Alan does all the other stuff. They have conversations and discussions about Alan’s life and about Miss Shepherd. What worked on the stage won’t necessarily work on film. This does not work. But if you are a fan of Maggie Smith, you will find everything here that you’d expect from her. I was amazed at the range she shows in The lady in the van. Her comic delivery is priceless. And there is a scene at the end where Mary Shepherd sits at a piano to play Chopin. She is like a little girl again. Smith’s ability to tap into Mary Shepherd’s fragility is simply brilliant. Dame Maggie Smith should be named International Treasure. Mary Shepherd/Margaret Fairchild died in 1989.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The lady in the van

Directed by:

Nicholas Hytner

Screenplay by:

Alan Bennett

Based on his own play


Maggie Smith

Alex Jennings

Jim Broadbent

Frances de la Tour

Roger Allam

James Corden

104 min.

Rated Parental Guidance


Arabian nights volume 1: The restless one

The three-part film Arabian nights is a tough sell. Director Miguel Gomes uses the same structure as One thousand and one nights, the collection of tales from the Middle East. In it Scheherazade avoids death by telling the king, her husband, a story each night. But Gomes uses Scheherazade to speak about Portugal’s economic problems, and the enormous burden on the population. Arabian nights volume 1: The restless one is partly scripted. But in the first segment we see documentary images of Portuguese workers, while we hear men in voice off talking about how the government’s austerity measures have worsened working conditions, and how hard it is to keep a job or to find one. Then we get tales on various aspects of life in Portugal. One of the stories has a group of business men spraying their penises with a magic potion in order to get permanent erections. Of the three films, I found volume 1 the least satisfying. Since there is a lot of dialogue with lots of subtitles, people who speak Portuguese will be probably enjoy it more than I did. Still, this is an interesting portrait of life in Portugal.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Arabian nights volume 1: The restless one

Directed by:

Miguel Gomes

Screenplay by:

Telmo Churro

Miguel Gomes

Mariana Ricardo

Inspired by One thousand and one nights


Adriano Luz

Americo Silva

Carloto Cotto

Crista Alfaiate

Fernanda Loureiro

Rogerio Samora

125 min.

In Portuguese, English, German and Mandarin with English subtitles

Oscar nominated animated shorts 2015

It is always fun and interesting to see the Oscar nominated animated short films. Every year, we get to see films with a wide range of animation techniques. The first short is from Pixar. Sanjay’s super team is about Hindu boy Sanjay’s love for video games and super heroes crashing with his father’s traditional views. Heartfelt and sweet. Next: From Chile, Bear story (Historia de un oso), is an allegory set Pinochet’s Chile. Animation innovator Don Hertzfeldt’s World of tomorrow was made from recorded conversations between Hertzfeldt’s four year old niece and actress Julia Pott. It’s all about the future. Abstract and artsy. In We can’’t live without cosmos (Mi ne mozhem zhit bez kosmosa) two Russian cosmonauts anxiously awaits their first trip in space. Well made but conventional. Before the last movie plays, there are four bonus shorts. The reason will become clear if you read the following warning found on the ByTowne page:

NOTE FOR PARENTS : All films in this year’s programme are suitable for children, except the Oscar nominee Prologue, which contains graphic violence and nudity. We’ve arranged for Prologue to be the FINAL film in the show, and an Advisory notice will appear before that film. Parents who do not want their children to see Prologue will have time to gather up their things and head for the lobby.

The four bonus films are: National film board of Canada’s If I was God. A boy’s daydreaming in class causes a lot of problems. The short story of a fox and a mouse about the most unlikely friendship. Bill Plympton’s The loneliest spotlight: Thirty tears in the life of a traffic light. But the most fun is Catch it. In the jungle various animals are trying to catch a fruit.  The last nominated short is Prologue. There is full frontal male nudity and violence. Beautiful hand drawn animation. The winner will be announced on February 28.

And the Oscar went to… Bear story (Historia de un oso), a short film from Chile won. A first for that country.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Oscar nominated animated shorts 2015

86 min.

All films suitable for children EXCEPT Prologue

Oscar nominated Live action shorts 2015

The five Oscar nominees for Best live action short film are featured in this yearly presentation. The term “live action” actually means that those films are non-documentary, fiction short films. The Academy defines a short film to be 40 minutes or less. The first film is Ave Maria, a Palestine, France and Germany co-production. Israeli settlers on the West Bank seek help from Catholic nuns. A comedy about cultural and religious differences. From Kosovo and the U.K, Shok (Friend) is about friendship between two boy during the Kosovo war. This is a sad but beautifully made film. Everything will be okay (Alles wird gut) from Germany and Austria is, at 30 minutes, the longest film. A divorced father picks up his young daughter for the weekend. Soon we realize, as she does, that he plans to kidnap her. A thoroughly believable and compelling, well made and well acted drama. Day one is an American short set in Afghanistan. On her first day of duty, a young woman working as an interpreter has to deliver a baby. In Stutterer, a young man with a speech impediment nervously awaits his first date with the girl he met online. All the films are good and interesting this year, so you are sure to spend a decent evening at the cinema.

And the Oscar went to…  Stutterer was the winner.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Oscar nominated Live action shorts 2015

107 min.

Rated 14A


Le tout nouveau testament (The brand new testament)

In Jaco Van Dormael’s Le tout nouveau testament, God (Benoît Poelvoorde) exists and lives modern day Brussels. He has a wife (Yolande Moreau) and a ten year old daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne). Ea is the narrator, and she tells us she does not like god, her father. She calls him a “salaud”. That’s French for bastard. And he is. God actually enjoys torturing humans, sending them catastrophic disasters and diseases. He controls it all from a computer in a locked office. He treat his wife like a servant and beats his daughter. Ea is planning to revolt. She asks her brother, JC (David Murgia), what she should do. A small statue of Jesus Christ comes to life and speaks to Ea. As you can see Van Dormael’s imagination has no limits. That is why you have to see this film. So Ea enters the office and sends e-mails to everyone on the planet the pre-destined date and time of their death. She then locks the computer and escapes through the washing machine (the only way out of the apartment). God is furious and tries to find her. He too has to through the washing machine. Ea plans to write a brand new testament. So she has to find six new apostles. To write it she get help from Victor (Marco Lorenzini), a homeless man. Among the new apostles there is a pervert, an assassin and a boy who wants to be a girl. Each apostle has a different story to tell Ea and Victor. Meanwhile God is having any luck finding his daughter as humans are giving him a hard time. And back at home, God’s wife start cleaning his office. This is a completely off-the-wall fantasy. It’s funny and beautiful. And there is Catherine Deneuve as Martine, a woman falling in love with a gorilla. Probably one of the weirdest thing she has ever done in her long and distinguished career. Must see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Le tout nouveau testament (The brand new testament)

Directed by:
Jaco Van Dormael

Screenplay by:
Jaco Van Dormael
Thomas Gunzig

Benoît Poelvoorde
Pili Groyne
Marco Lorenzini
Catherine Deneuve
François Damiens
Yolande Moreau

113 min.

In French and German with English subtitles.