Author: Shane McNeil

Leonard Cohen: a cinematic legacy

Leonard Cohen’s loss will be measured in many ways in the immediate aftermath of his passing Thursday night. A giant of music, poetry and literature, the Montreal native was an essential part of Canadian culture for more than half a century. He was also the source of some incredible cinematic moments, both on the screen itself and echoing through soundtracks. Starting on the home front, Don Owen and Donald Brittain immortalized Cohen in a 1965 NFB documentary Ladies and Gentlemen … Mr. Leonard Cohen (which, somehow is scheduled to play TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday!). Emerging two years before D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back, a strong argument can be made for the Cohen doc as the original rockumentary. A look at Cohen, the poet, the film pre-dated Cohen’s debut album by two years, proving how far ahead of the curve the board’s mandate was to beat “Suzanne”s release by a clean two years. Cohen’s next huge cinematic turn came courtesy of Robert Altman who, in 1971, utilized the Canadian bard’s distinctive voice to underscore his frontier Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. A mid-point between Altman’s MASH breakthrough and cementing his auteur status with  The Long Goodbye and Nashville, Cohen’s music played a central part from the film’s opening credits. Audiences grew accustomed to “Songs by Leonard Cohen” from the opening strains of “The Stranger Song” to “Sister of Mercy”...

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Soundtracking: Miss Sharon Jones!

What do you know about Sharon Jones? To some, the 60-year-old soul stirrer is a household name. She’s a Grammy-nominated vet with seven albums to her credit (with her incredible side men The Dap-Kings) that’s equally capable of glad-handing at the Macy’s Parade and cashing in on Christmas as she is running anchor for a line of indie rock luminaries at Radio City Music Hall. To others, though, she’s a complete unknown. This is where the new Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A.) film Miss Sharon Jones! comes in. The documentary, that played TIFF 2015 and opens at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Friday, August 19, 2016, drops the audience right into the middle of the career of a woman with over a decade in the industry, but whose recording career as we know it didn’t begin until her mid-40s. What happened? Well, thankfully Jones summed up her life story in a handy four minutes for “I’m Still Here,” her single off the film’s soundtrack. Jones’ singing career that never got off the ground in its prime because she was deemed “too fat, too short, black and old,” eventually launched for good in the late ‘90s. And it was thriving in the 21st Century until – as Jones sings – “The big C crashed down on me.” Cancer… A whole lot of it… Jones’ bile duct cancer got re-diagnosed as...

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Predictions for the 32nd Genie Awards

Now that we’ve gotten past the formality of those “other awards” it’s time to get down to business on some meaningful trophies.

Canada has never cranked out as many films at such a high level as it has over the past few years, and the ability of the most successful of those titles – films like Incendies, Polyetechnique and Away from Her – to permeate into the National popular consciousness shows that the public is starting to get how great our National Cinema has become.

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Review: The Iron Lady

How far would you be willing to go to display a truly brilliant performance? That is bound to be the question on the minds of anyone wandering out of a screening of   The Iron Lady . Make no bones about it, Meryl Streep’s performance is brilliant. It cuts much deeper than just a stellar impersonation (perhaps the only knock on her brilliant turn in 2009’s   Julie & Julia ) as she captures the essence of a once-fierce dynamo reduced to a shell of herself. The problem with   The Iron Lady  is that beyond Streep’s astounding turn,...

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Review: War Horse

Any review of Steven Spielberg’s latest offering,   War Horse ,  needs to begin with the following information: it is a perfectly fine film. There really isn’t anything wrong with the movie. It’s technically sound, emotionally uplifting and has your usual smattering of stunning visuals and exciting action sequences. That said, the film really brings nothing new to the table. I’m a firm believer in Woody Allen’s “dead shark theory” from   Annie Hall , which insists that in order for an entity to stay alive it must constantly stay in motion. Steven Spielberg ““ in my own opinion...

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Roman Polanski, TIFF unleash Carnage

Roman Polanski has always been kind of a funny guy. Maybe he’s not always funny in the conventional making-everyone-laugh sense, but at the very least funny in the odd, off-the-map, Fargo -descriptive kind of way. But a strange thing happens about five or ten minutes into his latest offering, Carnage Polanski actually gets all-out, deeply awkward yet justifiably hilarious, funny. Obviously there’s more to Carnage than laughs, but from a filmmaker whose sense of humour has traditionally skewed towards the sinister, it’s perhaps the most surprising element of the film. The latest in one of cinema’s most diverse and...

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Review: The Artist

If ever a film were custom-designed to charm the pants off a Toronto audience, The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius’ mostly-silent ode to the death of silent film ““ is it. But that’s in no way a bad thing. The Artist treads on familiar territory. It’s a requiem for a by-gone era, which we’ve seen before. Yet, the film takes it one step further than most other so-called “˜love-letter’ films by going (almost) completely silent. The film expresses an epic   Hollywood life in the full silent aesthetic, shot in glorious black-and-white and leaning heavily on acting techniques that cast...

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