2009 Screen Actors Guild Award Nominees

You’re probably wondering at this stage whether each wave of award nominees from the next group of industry circles, peers, critics, and such kind of mellows the impact of must-see films, or boosts consumer and film fan enthusiasm.

The next round of tributes and nominations comes from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the awards show will be broadcast live as a simulcast event Saturday January 23, 2010 on TNT and TBS at 8pm (ET/PT), 7pm (CT), and 6pm (MT) in the U.S.

I’ve edited down the official list from the SAG website to the basics, with the usual links to Amazon.com for DVD release info. Note that similarly to the Golden Globe Awards, the categories span film and TV, plus stunt work.


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

-JEFF BRIDGES / Bad Blake - "CRAZY HEART" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
-GEORGE CLOONEY / Ryan Bingham - "UP IN THE AIR" (Paramount Pictures)
-COLIN FIRTH / George Falconer - "A SINGLE MAN" (The Weinstein Company)
-MORGAN FREEMAN / Nelson Mandela - "INVICTUS" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
-JEREMY RENNER / Staff Sgt. William James - "THE HURT LOCKER" (Summit Entertainment)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

-SANDRA BULLOCK / Leigh Anne Tuohy - "THE BLIND SIDE" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
-HELEN MIRREN / Sofya - "THE LAST STATION" (Sony Pictures Classics)
-CAREY MULLIGAN / Jenny - "AN EDUCATION" (Sony Pictures Classics)
-MERYL STREEP / Julia Child - "JULIE & JULIA" (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

-MATT DAMON / Francois Pienaar - "INVICTUS" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
-WOODY HARRELSON / Captain Tony Stone - "THE MESSENGER" (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
-CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER / Tolstoy - "THE LAST STATION" (Sony Pictures Classics)
-STANLEY TUCCI / George Harvey - "THE LOVELY BONES" (Paramount Pictures)
-CHRISTOPH WALTZ / Col. Hans Landa - "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS" (The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

-PENÉLOPE CRUZ / Carla - "NINE" (The Weinstein Company)
-VERA FARMIGA / Alex Goran - "UP IN THE AIR" (Paramount Pictures)
-ANNA KENDRICK / Natalie Keener - "UP IN THE AIR" (Paramount Pictures)
-DIANE KRUGER / Bridget Von Hammersmark - "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS" (The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

-AN EDUCATION (Sony Pictures Classics)
-THE HURT LOCKER (Summit Entertainment)
-INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures)
-NINE (The Weinstein Company)


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

-KEVIN BACON / Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl - "TAKING CHANCE" (HBO)
-JEREMY IRONS / Alfred Stieglitz - "GEORGIA O'KEEFFE" (Lifetime)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

-JOAN ALLEN / Georgia O'Keeffe - "GEORGIA O'KEEFFE" (Lifetime)
-RUBY DEE / Mrs. Harper - "AMERICA" (Lifetime)
-SIGOURNEY WEAVER / Mary Griffith - "PRAYERS FOR BOBBY" (Lifetime)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

-MICHAEL C. HALL / Dexter Morgan - "DEXTER" (Showtime)
-JON HAMM / Don Draper - "MAD MEN" (AMC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

-GLENN CLOSE / Patty Hewes - "DAMAGES" (FX)
-HOLLY HUNTER / Grace Hanadarko - "SAVING GRACE" (TNT)
-KYRA SEDGWICK / Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson - "THE CLOSER" (TNT)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

-ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy - "30 ROCK" (NBC)
-STEVE CARELL / Michael Scott - "THE OFFICE" (NBC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

-TONI COLLETTE / Tara Gregor - "UNITED STATES OF TARA" (Showtime) --- DVD+BR to be released Dec. 29/2009
-EDIE FALCO / Jackie Peyton - "NURSE JACKIE" (Showtime) --- DVD+BR to be released Feb. 23/2010
-TINA FEY / Liz Lemon - "30 ROCK" (NBC)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

-DEXTER (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

-30 ROCK (NBC)


Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

-PUBLIC ENEMIES (Universal Pictures)
-STAR TREK (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

-24 (FOX)
-DEXTER (Showtime)


Screen Actors Guild Awards 46th Annual Life Achievement Award
Betty White



2009 Toronto Film Critics Association Award Winners

Also announced this week are the 2009 TFCA (Toronto Film Critics Association) award winners. One can faithfully assume the Golden Globe winners will be safe and populist, which makes the TFCA winners and runners-up more intriguing because they embrace some rebels, newcomers, egotists, and indie filmmakers whose works are in fact/will be out on DVD, and should be sought out after you’ve gone through the safer crème de la crème of studio fodder.

As always, titles available/soon to be released on DVD and Blu-ray are hyperlinked to Amazon.ca and Amazon.com (depending on first availability).

Categories I’d like to see added to the list in 2010 include Best Cinematography and Best Score.

Sliding the soapbox back under the desk... and now to the winners:


Hunger” (Maple Pictures) --- now available in Canada via Maple. Criterion DVD+BR to be released Feb. 16/2010
Inglourious Basterds” (Alliance Films)

The Hurt Locker” (Maple Pictures) --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 12/2010


Nicolas Cage, “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans--- DVD+BR to be released April 6, 2010

George Clooney, “Up in the Air
Michael Fassbender, “Hunger” --- now available in Canada via Maple. Criterion DVD+BR to be released Feb. 16/2010
Colin Firth, “A Single Man
Viggo Mortensen, “The Road


Carey Mulligan, “An Education

Arta Dobroshi, “Le Silence de Lorna” --- Canadian DVD to be released Dec. 22/2010
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia


Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds

Christian McKay, “Me & Orson Welles
Timothy Olyphant, “A Perfect Getaway” --- DVD+BR to be released Dec. 29/2010


Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air

Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air
Mo’nique, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire


Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 12/2010

Steve McQueen, “Hunger” --- now available in Canada via Maple. Criterion DVD+BR to be released Feb. 16/2010
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds


Inglourious Basterds”, written by Quentin Tarantino
Up in the Air”, written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner based on the novel by Walter Kirn

A Serious Man”, written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen


Hunger”, directed by Steve McQueen --- now available in Canada via Maple. Criterion DVD+BR to be released Feb. 16/2010

District 9″, directed by Neill Blomkamp --- DVD+BR to be released Dec. 22/2010
(500) Days of Summer”, directed by Marc Webb--- DVD +BR to be released Dec. 22/2009


Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Fox Searchlight)

Coraline” (Alliance Films)
Up” (Disney-Pixar)


The White Ribbon” (Mongrel Media)

Police, Adjective” (filmswelike)
Summer Hours / L’heure d’ete” (E1 Entertainment)


The Cove” (Maple Pictures)

Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (filmswelike)
The Beaches of Agnes” (E1 Entertainment) --- DVD to be released March 2/2010



2009 Golden Globe Award Nominees

Winner: New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture Award, circa 1982.Nominees for the precursor to the Oscars – The Golden Globe Awards – were earlier this week, and while the organization with the murky history and credibility still mushes together Best Performances for actors and actresses from TV and film in singular categories (see end), this high-profile wave of titles will probably help boost the profiles of known, missed, and unknown films for consumers.

From a studio standpoint, it’s a big marketing bonus that comes with a live TV show, but in terms of credibility, the image of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is still an odd collection of people kind of involved in writing and publicity who managed over several decades to become an influence on the films people should see, as well as what films and talent AMPAS members should consider for Oscar Awards.

(This isn’t a snotty slam. I’d advise tracking down Vikram Jayanti’s 2003 documentary, The Golden Globes: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret, where the British journalist ran into all manner of unnecessary and bizarre subterfuge in simply trying to find out factual details on members of the HFPA, and why they’ve become so influential after being known for throwing a minor awards ceremony most celebrities during the fifties and sixties took lightly.)

The plus side is that many of the nominated films below are brand spanking new – some just hitting cinemas this month – so the list is a helpful guide for those wanting to spend whatever cash is leftover from the Xmas buying binge on something that’s been branded by a recognized group/commercial entity as being worth time and money.

In terms of DVD and Blu-ray sales, the Golden Globes mean far less than the Oscars, since the latter has always been the A-level hit list of titles film fans tend to track down prior to the glitzy awards ceremony.

In any event, until the Golden Globe Awards – you know, the group that gave Pia Zadora the New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture Award back in 1982 for Butterfly – is broadcast on NBC, January 17, 2010, below you’ll find the categories, starting with Films now available or soon to be released on home video hyperlinked to Amazon.com search entries.

Soundtracks and Music are linked to Soundtrackcollector.com for current releases, as well as Amazon.com for upcoming releases.

TV series are linked to Amazon.com if the current or prior seasons are on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as announced first seasons of specific shows, as are nominees in the Best Performances/Direction categories.

Happy hunting.


Best Motion Picture – Drama

Lightstorm Entertainment; Twentieth Century Fox

The Hurt Locker --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 12/2010
Voltage Pictures; Summit Entertainment

Inglourious Basterds
The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg GmbH Production; The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
A Lee Daniels Entertainment / Smokewood Entertainment Group Production; Lionsgate

Up In The Air
Paramount Pictures; Paramount Pictures

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Emily Blunt – The Young Victoria

Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side

Helen Mirren – The Last Station

Carey Mulligan – An Education

Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart

George Clooney – Up In The Air

Colin Firth – A Single Man

Morgan Freeman – Invictus

Tobey Maguire – Brothers

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

(500) Days Of Summer --- DVD +BR to be released Dec. 22/2009
Watermark Pictures; Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Hangover
Warner Bros. Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures

It's Complicated
Relativity Media, Scott Rudin Productions; Universal Pictures

Julie & Julia
Columbia Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing

The Weinstein Company/Relativity Media/Lucamar Productions/Marc Platt Productions; The Weinstein Company

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

Sandra Bullock – The Proposal

Marion Cotillard – Nine

Julia Roberts – Duplicity

Meryl Streep – It's Complicated

Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

Matt Damon – The Informant!

Daniel Day-Lewis – Nine

Robert Downey Jr. – Sherlock Holmes

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – (500) Days Of Summer --- DVD +BR to be released Dec. 22/2009

Michael Stuhlbarg – A Serious Man

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Penélope Cruz – Nine

Vera Farmiga – Up In The Air

Anna Kendrick – Up In The Air

Mo'nique – Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Julianne Moore – A Single Man

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Matt Damon – Invictus

Woody Harrelson – The Messenger

Christopher Plummer – The Last Station

Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones

Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

Best Animated Feature Film

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 5/2010
Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation; Sony Pictures Releasing

Laika, Inc.; Focus Features

Fantastic Mr. Fox
American Empirical Picture; Twentieth Century Fox

The Princess And The Frog
Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures/PIXAR Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Foreign Language Film

Baaria (Italy)
Medusa Film; Summit Entertainment

Broken Embraces (Spain) --- Region 2 DVD+BR to be released in the U.K. Feb. 1/2010
El Deseo SA; Sony Pictures Classics

The Maid (La Nana) (Chile)
Forastero; Elephant Eye Films

A Prophet (Un Prophete) (France) --- Region 2 DVD+BR to be released in France. Feb. 17/2010
Chic Films/Page 114/Why Not Productions; Sony Pictures Classics

The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band - Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte) (Germany) --- Region 2 DVD+BR to be released in the U.K. March 8/2010
X Filme Creative Pool/Les Films Du Losange/Lucky Red; Sony Pictures Classics

Best Director - Motion Picture

Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 12/2010

James Cameron – Avatar

Clint Eastwood – Invictus

Jason Reitman – Up In The Air

Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

District 9
Written by Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell

The Hurt Locker --- DVD+BR to be released Jan. 12/2010. Read film review HERE.
Written by Mark Boal

Inglourious Basterds
Written by Quentin Tarantino

It's Complicated
Written by Nancy Meyers

Up In The Air
Written by Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner

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Best Original Score - Motion Picture

Composed by Michael Giacchino

The Informant!
Composed by Marvin Hamlisch

Composed by James Horner

A Single Man
Composed by Abel Korzeniowski

Where The Wild Things Are
Composed by Karen O and Carter Burwell

Best Original Song - Motion Picture

"Cinema Italiano" – Nine
Music & Lyrics By: Maury Yeston

"I See You" – Avatar
Music By: James Horner and Simon Franglen
Lyrics By: James Horner, Simon Franglen and Kuk Harrell

"I Want To Come Home" – Everybody's Fine
Music & Lyrics By: Paul McCartney

"The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)" – Crazy Heart --- Soundtrack to be released Jan. 19/2010
Music & Lyrics By: Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

"Winter" – Brothers
Music By: U2
Lyrics By: Bono

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Note: hyperlinked titles reflect seasons currently available on DVD+BR in addition to announced/imminent releases

Best Television Series – Drama

Big Love (HBO)
Anima Sola Productions and Playtone in association with HBO Entertainment

Showtime Presents, John Goldwyn Productions, The Colleton Company, Clyde Phillips Productions

House (FOX)
Universal Media Studios in association with Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z Productions and Bad Hat Harry Productions

Mad Men (AMC)

True Blood (HBO)
Your Face Goes Here Productions in association with HBO Entertainment

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series – Drama

Glenn Close – Damages (FX NETWORK)

January Jones – Mad Men (AMC)

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife (CBS)

Anna Paquin – True Blood (HBO)

Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer (TNT)

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series – Drama

Simon Baker – The Mentalist (CBS)

Michael C. Hall – Dexter (SHOWTIME)

Jon Hamm – Mad Men (AMC)

Hugh Laurie – House (FOX)

Bill Paxton – Big Love (HBO)

Best Television Series - Musical Or Comedy

30 Rock (NBC)
Universal Media Studios in association with Broadway Video and Little Stranger Inc.

Entourage (HBO)
Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment

Glee (FOX)
Twentieth Century Fox Television

Modern Family (ABC)
Twentieth Century Fox Television

The Office (NBC)
Universal Television Studios, Deedle Dee Productions, Reveille LLC

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Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Musical Or Comedy

Toni Collette – United States Of Tara (SHOWTIME) --- DVD of Season 1 to be released Dec. 29/2009

Courteney Cox – Cougar Town (ABC)

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie (SHOWTIME) --- DVD+BR of Season 1 to be released Feb. 23/2010

Tina Fey – 30 Rock (NBC)

Lea Michele – Glee (FOX)

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Musical Or Comedy

Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock (NBC)

Steve Carell – The Office (NBC)

David Duchovny – Californication (SHOWTIME)

Thomas Jane – Hung (HBO)

Matthew Morrison – Glee (FOX)

Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made for Television

Georgia O'Keeffe (LIFETIME)
Sony Pictures Television

Grey Gardens (HBO)
Specialty Films and Locomotive in association with HBO Films

Into The Storm (HBO)
Scott Free and Rainmark Films Production in association with the BBC and HBO Films

Little Dorrit (PBS)
Masterpiece/BBC Co-production

Taking Chance (HBO)
Motion Picture Corporation of America and Civil Dawn Pictures in association with HBO Films

Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Joan Allen – Georgia O'Keeffe (LIFETIME)

Drew Barrymore – Grey Gardens (HBO)

Jessica Lange – Grey Gardens (HBO)

Anna Paquin – The Courageous Heart Of Irena (CBS)

Sigourney Weaver – Prayers For Bobby (LIFETIME)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Kevin Bacon – Taking Chance (HBO)

Kenneth Branagh – Wallander: One Step Behind (BBC)

Chiwetel Ejiofor – Endgame (PBS) --- DVD to be released Feb. 9/2010

Brendan Gleeson – Into The Storm (HBO)

Jeremy Irons – Georgia O'Keeffe (LIFETIME)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture

Made for Television

Jane Adams – Hung (HBO)

Rose Byrne – Damages (FX NETWORK)

Jane Lynch – Glee (FOX)

Janet McTeer Into The Storm (HBO)

Chlo Sevigny – Big Love (HBO)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture

Made for Television

Michael Emerson – Lost (ABC)

Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

William Hurt – Damages (FX NETWORK)

John Lithgow – Dexter (SHOWTIME)

Jeremy Piven – Entourage (HBO)

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Ah, Luv

Charlyne Yi is a really odd person, but her fusion film Paper Heart (2009) – part comedy, drama, and documentary – is an oddly cute effort to ruminate on the nature of love: What is it? How do you recognize it? When is it real? When is it dead? Blah-blah-blah.

It’s also one of those ‘Hey, let’s make movies together!” productions that some creative couples did which inadvertently preceded a break up, making the film somewhat ironic, becoming a snapshot of a giddy romance when things were good.

Remember Bruce Willis and Demi Moore in Mortal Thoughts (1991)? He started out as a ‘happy-go-lucky guy,’ and then… Uh… Nevermind.

Paper Heart works as a light docu-something, and there are some genuinely funny moments that bridge the docu-vignettes. It’s also beautifully shot and edited, and the film has good, compact pacing which keeps the running time just under 90 mins.

Although there’s no commentary track on Anchor Bay’s DVD, there’s plenty of promo materials, music extras, and deleted scenes that cover the film’s production.

Among the deleted materials is an extended interview with a specific blonde tween from the playground sequence. The kid was already a standout among his friends, and his longer and more candid replies to Yi’s fairly mature questions were retained in the deleted scenes gallery.

He’s oddly wise, suave, and often very thoughtful for his age, articulating answers even some adults wouldn’t pull off with such finesse. When asked to offer up some advice to someone wary of love, he opines “I would say take a minute and look at your life. Look at the person that you think likes you [and] find out for yourself.”

In ten years, this kid will have his own national talk show. Count on it.

Towards the soundtrack realm, I’ve also uploaded reviews for a pair of Rolfe Kent soundtracks released by Silva Screen Records: 17 Again, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (you know, the film where the poster art makes Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner look like Photoshopped brass figurines).

Kent, recognized for his own brand of deft writing, is better know for penning the title theme for TV’s Dexter series, but his comedy scores are anything but generic. Check out the reviews to find out why these two are worth a listen.



The Carlton’s Blinky-Blinky Lights Go Dark

This past Sunday Dec. 6th marked the last day of operation of Toronto's Carlton Cinemas, a modest Cineplex multiplex built in 1981, and known for showing indie and foreign films prior to their widespread availability on home video and specialty channels.

Situated on Carlton Street, east of Yonge, on the north-east side, the vintage design wasn't anything elaborate: lots of purple and mauve colours, if I recall, a small admission wicket, a compact snacks counter, and the hallmark of multiplex design - small screens, uncomfortable seating, 'meh' sound systems, and little blinky lights embedded in ropes of clear floor caulking as floor ornamentation and functional guidelines within the theatre aisles (a familiar design trait of Cineplex' eighties style).

From a functional standpoint, the Carlton did what it was designed for – deliver smaller films to niche audiences as well as neighbourhood locals who enjoyed a quick walk or commute to a nearby theatre without the heavy traffic typical of big theatres showing nothing but blockbusters and crossover favourites.

The last film I saw there was probably Like Water for Chocolate (1992), which I remember because I was the only audience member who felt the film was manipulative crap. I had paid for the ticket, and was obliged to see it through to the end because a friend was enjoying the thing, and needed a ride home to 'that vast steel and concrete wasteland' where we lived – North York. The most indignant aspect of the end (and a painful kick in the pants) was the insulting parking ticket someone had placed on my car, which I had parked on a small street beside the old CBC radio office.

In one way, the theatre's closure isn't a surprise because home video and specialty TV stations like Showcase and Bravo started to usurp movie patrons from theatres. The old Revue Video store on the Danforth was known for carrying a huge selection of rare VHS rental tapes of foreign films, and the store started to feel the pinch when people were getting their foreign film fix from TV, particularly during the chilly winter months.

No doubt the success of specialty channels affected the Carlton's business, although there was and remains a loyal group who prefer to see a film in theatres and enjoy the communal filmgoing experience. (At least in 1991, average audiences were less diseased with cellphones, glowing mobile toys, and families that imported their noxious chatty behaviour from their basement TV room into the theatrical realm.)

Changing demographics may also have seen the cinema's core audience aging, marrying, and finding less time to sneak out and catch movies as often as before; instead of two or three films a week for the hard film fan, it may have dwindled down to a few per month, with more time being taken over by heavier work schedules, family activities, and weekend dinner with the parents.

You could argue the reason the youth market still makes up the top moviegoing demographic isn't because of disposable income, but disposable time, and that key demographic isn't made up of a majority of adventuresome film fans keen on art house films.

While I don't miss the 'Carlton experience,' I do mourn the loss of another neighbourhood theatre, since most movie houses people attend are the multiplexes at major intersections larded with tent-pole pictures – blockbusters that are functional forms of escapism, but really do little to provoke the brain or push creative boundaries.

The doomed Odeon Carlton.

What's surprising – at least what surprised me a while ago – was that the Carlton bore the name of a massive 2300 seat movie palace built by Britain's Odeon chain in 1948, and that gorgeous postwar deco building remained at the corner of Carlton and Yonge until the early seventies. It was another classically tragic case of a big single screen palace no longer useful to theatre owners. The property was valuable, the building was old, and less and less patrons were coming. If the quoted stats in the Torontoist piece are spot on, 250 people in a 2300 seat theatre is a sad state.

Nope. I'm now a Pottery Barn. Cry for my soul.

And yet the Odeon Carlton theatre was ultimately murdered, much in the way the University (now a Pottery Barn) and the Uptown (soon to be a luxury condo) were killed by developers, literally robbing future generations of Torontonians of knowing what it was like to have a genuine vintage movie palace in their own town. From the descriptions of the Odeon’s interior, it sounded amazing, and perhaps the only local remains from that bygone era of gilded showmanship are the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres, which were given life after a long period in hermetic stasis, although their prime function isn't as a mainstream movie theatre.

My memories of the corner of Yonge and Carlton are indicative of a post-Odeon generation: on the north-west section of Yonge, a few doors above College was a shop where one could buy Chrome audio tapes, cheap name brand VHS tapes, and for several years, Beta tapes, long after the format had died, and every other shop had dumped their stock or let it run out.

(The last batch of Beta tapes, incidentally, where a 'universal' L-750 that stated recording times in NTSC and PAL. This run was obviously part of a final batch meant to keep the few Beta machine owners happy, be they in Canada, Hong Kong, Europe, or the Philippines – the latter apparently one of the few regions where the format remained active beyond North America.)

There was also a parking lot on the south east corner, which eventually became a series of large condos. Yonge and Carlton was, during the 1980s and early 1990s, a bright intersection; there was something called “sunlight” that made the corner more uplifting, a quality less common since the south eastern corner's been capped with a cluster of condos cramped in places that don't leave much walking room, rest spots, or Vitamin D rays for pedestrians.

Where the Odeon Carlton stood became the CAA building (if I recall), a bluish edifice that seemed to evoke the original theatre's form through its curved corner, but it otherwise looked like an ugly, hastily constructed building with mixed blah office space, parking garage, and big banners on travel deals.

The closing of the Cineplex Carlton this past week may have marked the end of one of the last vestiges of the original Cineplex cinema design – small theatres compacted into a small commercial space with little regard for comfort, showmanship, or fidelity towards the filmmaker's original cinematic design of grandeur and big screen sound.

Back in 1989, I travelled up to Richmond Hill to meet some friends and take advantage of the multiplex at Hillcrest Mall. (I'm pretty sure it was this mall because owner Cadillac Fairview also had Cineplex multiplexes in their other prestige suburban property, Fairview Mall.)

The first Cineplex Multiplex at the Eaton's Centre (pre-rodent infestation).

My friends' claim that one could see a film for a buck (or was it two?) were true. We walked from their brown apartment on Baif (“barf”) Boulevard across the mall parking lot, and inside the mall sat a large multi-screen complex with décor that was literally frozen in time, more so than what remained for years at the old Famous Players Bayview Village Cinemas at Bayview and Sheppard.

(The Bayview venue was a regular source of entertainment during my pre-teen years because it was an easy bus ride in pre-Sheppard stubway times, and their single level parking lot was still big enough to hold parked cars. I caught Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1 (1981) there twice, Meatballs (1979), and had to wait two hours in lineup for the next showing of Superman II (1980) because we arrived too late for the first matinee, and couldn't make use of the seats a friend was saving for us.)

The Hillcrest theatres were filled with a vintage red, orange, yellow, puce, and green coloured fabrics (like my mother's kitchen), and it was a genuinely surreal experience seeing a modern film – Star Trek Vin mono. (I even made a point of telling my hosts that, of whom 'Da' just laughed.)

Most likely the $1 movies were a quick and easy way to keep the place semi-solvent, but like the Odeon Carlton, it must have been a last-ditch attempt to deal with rapidly dwindling audiences; with the Odeon palace, it was a single screen theatre built to show epics, whereas the aforementioned Cineplex was a no frills operation that had become an obsolete form of theatrical film exhibition when Big Screen-Big Sound was the ad mantra of the major chains.

Why would you want to leave home when your own TV and seminal home theatre system (circa 1989) offered better picture and sound?

Of course, had the Odeon movie palace survived into 1977, it may have benefitted from the resurgence of blockbusters such as Star Wars, since it was designed for event screenings. That may be why the University lasted so long, since it was The place to see new monster hits (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) as well as classics (Fantasia). My last experience at the University was Aliens (1986). It was loud (actually, too loud...), it was BIG, and I actually gripped the shoulder rests because the film was so intense in that monster theatre.

The Cineplex Carlton became a viable venue because even though home video had taken business away again from theatre exhibitors, the Carlton was still a place to see those indie and foreign films most video shops wouldn't get for a while because the windows between theatrical, Pay TV, home video, and TV were longer, and allowed small films to earn money slowly instead of the retarded fast-grossing system now in play.

During Cineplex' expansion into malls, company bigwig Garth Drabinsky (and maybe some of his like-minded advisors) perhaps felt with all the money from the cheap exhibition outlets, a return to Big Screen Big-Sound was deserved again.

On the one hand, the Dolby Surround and EX systems were already in place in several theatres, and technology had spread the gear down to the home theatre enthusiast. Those two factors may be the reason why Dolby Digital became the next exhibition standard, and why the Victoria Terrace complex was the first to be fitted with a Dolby Digital setup.

The first trailer – a chugging steam engine emerging from a mist, and its travelling over and past audiences – was a great little showpiece of Big Sound, and yet that historical complex, built in a modest mall at the corner of Lawrence and Victoria Park, was shuttered, and re-merged as a health spa. A health spa.

On the one hand, the evolution of technology, economic realities of theatrical film exhibition, and audience viewing habits are more fluid than in the past. One need only look at the wealth of neighbourhood theatres that existed in Toronto or any major city that vanished in the seventies and eighties and became carpet stores, spas, or were raised to the ground and replaced with a banal condo, or stood rotting until the hulk was somehow reconfigured for another commercial enterprise.

Remember Michael Bay's The Island (2005)? Not a particularly good film, but there's a car chase that happens in the second hour, with high-performance machines roaring and screeching in a garage that's periodically show to have huge vaulted ceilings with ornate paintings and plasterwork. That was the Michigan Theater, one of Detroit's movie palaces.

Here's a test.

Look at the picture of the lobby via this link. Examine the details carefully and commit the splendor to memory. Now grab your copy of The Island – oh come on, everyone knows somebody who owns a copy – and cue up to the car chase. Now look back at the picture of the theatre in its heyday, and then check out these current snapshots that show in greater (and absurd) detail how the theatre was gutted to fit a three-level parking garage, archived HERE at Flickr. The exterior historical plague seems absurd, if not laughable, to say the least.

In Toronto, the decision to redevelop the University theatre was frozen when the housing boom went kaput, and the facade stood there on Bloor street, suspended in the rear by girders, so people heading off to their parked cars wouldn't get flattened one windy day by an errant hunk of masonry. I still recall a newspaper piece describing the combo-plex that was planned: a huge screen with several small ones, and a large condo tower.

Never happened. The building's rear was ripped out, and the land expropriated for parking. The facade's inner guts still showed some detail, including the black & white square tiles that probably were part of the balcony's lavatory (which, if memory serves correctly, was a bit smaller than the main level. I think there was also a smaller snack bar for the balcony patrons.)

As the Carlton is no more, people should take note of its demise, because in five years, few will remember the small theatre at all, and much like the original Odeon, it'll become a historical footnote among an aging generation. The new Carlton theatre may not have deserved great praise, but there's something poignant and tragic in the way a building that once shared time with enthusiastic audiences is now dead.

In Toronto, nowadays old buildings are replaced with conservative banalities, although there is talk that the multipurpose Bell Lightbox might fill that void when the complex is finished, even though a number of healthy indie theatres would probably welcome former Carlton patrons. (It would be ironic if the gap between the Carlton's closure and completion of the touted Lightbox gives extant theatres a boost in business, and a larger clientele base...)

For those who share a belief that a massive structure like the Odeon Carlton, built by artisans and enjoyed by audiences for generations, had a bit of a soul, visit the following links of now-gone movie and live theatre venues, and read some of the reader comments, since some of the posts include ex-employees with memories of specific locales.

Eric Veillette's piece on the Carlton at 32 Elvis Movies includes some vintage stills and publicity art of the Odeon theatre, as well as an update on the recent closing (augmented with original Cineplex promo art). Other articles regarding the Cineplex Carlton's closing include a piece at Eye Weekly, the National Post, and this still, taken as the marquee was being efficiently removed.

I wonder if they'll be able to remove all the blinky-blinky lights in the caulking as easily.

Note: for an update on the Carlton Cinemas's resurrection, click HERE.



Canada's Top Ten on DVD (sort of)

Whenever a list of nominated or winning titles in a best-of or industry awards tally is revealed, there’s a curiosity among some (me) as to what’s currently out or will be out on DVD.

The relative newness of those films means few will actually be commercially available at the time of announcement, but at least the publication and publicity of a list generates some interest in the filmmakers and their work (ideally).

In any event, below is the list as revealed this morning at Canada’s Top Ten. The official website includes brief bios of the filmmakers, the nominated films, and the panel who voted on the candidates.

From January 14-21, 2010, the TIFF Cinematheque will screen the films as well as offer panel discussions.

The 8-day event may well be the best opportunity to catch the lot, since it might be a while before the bulk of the films will appear on video or as digital media.

Film titles below with hyperlinks will take you to their respective official websites; the linked director names will glide you to IMDB entries; and the remaining links indicate availability on DVD, and DVD review(s) at KQEK.com.

Feature Films:

Cairo Time – (dir. Ruba Nadda) --- Released Jan. 19, 2010 (DVD/BR)
Carcasses - Denis Côté
Crackie - Sherry White
Defendor - Peter Stebbings
La Donation - Bernard Émond
J'ai tué ma mère - Xavier Dolan
Passenger Side - Matthew Bissonnette
Polytechnique - Denis Villeneuve --- Read the DVD review HERE
The Trotsky - Jacob Tierney
The Wild Hunt - Alexandre Franchi

Short Films

The Armoire - Jamie Travis
?E?ANX (The Cave) - Helen Haig-Brown
Danse Macabre - Pedro Pires
Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica - Cam Christiansen
Naissances - Anne Émond
Out in that Deep Blue Sea - Kazik Radwanski
Runaway - Cordell Barker
The Spine - Chris Landreth
La vie commence - Émile Proulx-Cloutier
Vive la Rose - Bruce Alcock



Dark Sunday

Today marks two tragic anniversaries in Canada: the collision of a French munitions ship with a Norwegian vessel in 1917 that essentially flattened a whole swathe of the city of Halifax, killed a thousand, and maimed nine thousand more; and the tenth anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, where nutbar Marc Lepine set out to kill women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique because he blamed women for all of his woes.

Amazingly, there has yet to be a solid dramatization of the Halifax disaster, perhaps because it’s a simple story: a ship blew up, people died, more suffered thereafter, more misery and devastation. Not exactly a story with a dramatic arc, and while a Canadian Heritage vignette tried to capture the horror and heroism of a telegraph operator during the event, the vignette was awfully melodramatic, and was hardly a moving or engrossing tribute. There is, however, an NFB documentary (Just One Big Mess) that covers the explosion, which you can view online for free HERE.

The Ecole Polytechnique massacre, though, was given a superb retelling this year by director Denis Villeneuve in the drama Polytechnique, which is widely available on DVD. Perhaps not for the faint of heart, it’s nevertheless a potent assault on the senses, and really leaves one filled with outrage towards Lepine. Although ostensibly about one event and a dramatization that fuses stories from several witnesses and survivors, it’s also a potent statement about the strong-willed mindset of men who feel women are useless, stupid, and evil – and as such, it’s also a sampling of the mentality that motivates men to abuse and kill women due to cultural, religious, or boneheaded illogic.

Even if you’re wary of the dour subject matter, Polytechnique’s portrait of mindless male rage is terrifying, provocative, and edifying, and it’s worth checking out on DVD in place of the usual banal romantic comedy, moronic action flick, or torture porn. It may not be cheery Christmas material, but if the holidays are supposed to promote thoughts of those less fortunate, it should also include familiarizing oneself with a social evil.



Soundtracks Reviews (B)

Uploaded Friday are soundtrack reviews for a pair of MovieScore Media releases, the Swedish label that’s managed to build up what’s arguably the most diverse international roster of composers around.

Back in 2006 I interviewed label bigwig Mikael Carlsson about his venture (which was then quite new), and many current titles are available upon release as downloadable MP3 albums as well as limited CDs for enthusiasts wanting a hardcopy.

Perhaps the biggest plus for film music fans has been the labels’ release of music by European composers generally unknown outside of the EU – mostly because many European films aren’t given Region 1 or English language releases. (Britain tends to offer the lone chance to see English subtitled versions of European films, as well as British productions, that whatever reasons don’t get picked up in Region 1 land.)

It may sound like a bias at hand – ‘If it’s not available in North America, then the film isn’t notable’ – but that’s wholly untrue. It’s the flipside: ‘Why the heck hasn’t anyone picked this up for distribution here when there’s so much direct to video dreck that makes it to a physical DVD instead?’

From a composer’s stand, the basic desire is that via an album release, their music reaches a broader audience and is appreciated and enjoyed – something that would satisfy any artist – but en even greater benefit would be more work for the composer, and it would be interesting to see if some of the artists featured on MSM releases have noticed whether their phones ring a bit more often now.

As once ardent film music collector (well, maybe scratch the word “once” and substitute “a still avid”), there was and remains the oddity where you hear a score for a film you’ve never heard of, and then wonder if the movie is as moving, shocking, terrifying, or hysterical as the score.

Gast Waltzing’s JCVD is a fun score, but it was surprising to see how few themes and variations actually made it into the final film edit. A more high profile illustration of contrast is John Powell’s X-Men: The Last Stand, which ranks as one of his and that year’s best action scores, and yet the film in no way lives up to the score’s depth. Neither the script nor Brett Ratner’s sterile direction evoked the power within the score, and it makes you wonder how a composer can be moved by a terrible film.

Preamble done with, the latest score reviews are Florian Tessloff’s Jasper: Journey to the End of the World, and Toxic from Scott Glasgow (Chasing Ghosts). Both scores are highly recommended.

And coming soon from Silva Screen is the complete score for Miklos Rozsa’s El Cid, which was previously released as a limited 3-CD set from Tadlow Music. Silva’s 2-disc set reissues the score proper (along with a downloadable .PDF version of the fat booklet), whereas the bonus CD (which featured alternate tracks as well as video footage from the recording session remains unique to the Tadlow release.

I reviewed the 3-disc set back in 2008, and it’s good to see Tadlow’s effort – it's their most expensive restoration and re-recording thus far – get a broad release and be part of Silva’s active catalogue. If you love Rozsa, it’s a no-brainer, and if you love epic historical film music, it’s also a no-brainer, because the music is amazing.

The movie itself is also worth hunting down if you’re a fan of Giant Epics, and for those fond of Hestonian kitsch, it’s the one that features a unique horse ride into glory in the final act.



Soundtrack Reviews (A) & Film Music News

With the YoYo bug now gone from the system, I’ll be uploading batches of reviews each day, along with some blogs originally slated for earlier uploads.

First off is a pair of reviews. Jerry Goldsmith’s short scores for I.Q. (1994) and Seconds (1966) get their premiere releases on one disc from La-La Land Records, as well as a remastered and expanded CD of Joe Renzetti’s Child’s Play score from 1988.

The main jewel of the Goldsmith couplet is Seconds, a short but gripping doom and gloom score that’s a great companion to his brilliant Freud score, whereas I.Q. shows the composer tackling comedy and drama by wiggling between several musical styles.

Renzetti’s film work is relatively sparse, yet he left an important mark on electronic film music as well as horror films with the original Child’s Play film, as well as Poltergeist III (I know… It’s still a Gary Sherman idiocy, but at least the score was fun), and Frank Henenlotter’s sick gem Frankenhooker (whose score did get a CD release, via Silva Screen).

Coming next will be reviews for a pair of MovieScore Media releases, and soon after the latest releases from Silva Screen, as well as an interview with composer Frederik Wiedmann regarding his score for the The Hills Run Red (2009), the latest shocker from Dark Castle that isn’t the company’s usual offering of horrifically inept storytelling. (I’ll also pair the interview with a film review.)

I'm better than a Butterball

Film Music News

Well, when word of a 15-CD boxed set featuring a bevy of Miklos Rozsa scores was underway at Film Score Monthly, two questions dominated online discussions: How much will it cost? And more privately, how the heck will people pay for the monster?

Actually, the fear that it would be some beastly $300 tome is gone, now that one can pre-order the set via Screen Archives Entertainment for $179.95 plus shipping. It’s still a hefty amount in an era when digital albums are less pricey (and aren’t subject to shipping issues), but then there’s the rights issues that sometimes prevents online retailers from making some digital content available to other countries – a problem that’s often null and void when it’s a physical CD.

Either way, if you’re contemplating the purchase of this set, no worries, as I’m still sitting on the fence myself about the older Elmer Bernstein FMC box that’s still above my budget, and I also missed out on some of the smaller composer and genre sets (all limited issues) back when the Canadian dollar was worth mud.

The FMC box, along with FSM’s Superman box, both featured bound booklets, something that producer Lukas Kendall said added significantly to each set’s overall cost, which is why the liner notes for the Rozsa box are available online.

The practice is also a clever way to publicize exactly what’s in each box, so you can drool before an announced street date, and decide whether you can do without a turkey this Christmas, and just play Rozsa for the family while holding pictures of what you would’ve cooked and baked that night.

Most likely, your holiday dinner would sound like this:

“Can’t we just order a pizza?”

“No! Listen to The Power! It’s in stereo, AND longer!”

“But the pizzeria is next-door…”

“Either sit still and devour the nuances of this Golden Age maestro, or leave the premises and forego eating rights for next year’s Easter dinner.”

“But what if there’s another boxed set in April?”

“Then I will provide bread and water. Let’s hope if anything IS planned, it’s a Bernstein liturgy.”

“Who’s Bernstein?”



Also announced last week is a 2-CD set of Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future, with Intrada limiting the pressing to around 3000 copies; and a 2-CD set for Lee Holdridge’s In Search of Peace soundtrack (limited to 1000 copies, and apparently sold out at the label’s site, though check out other online retailers). The label’s prior limited CD, Jerry Fielding’s Gray Lady Down, is still available.

New from FSM is Lalo Schifrin’s Bullitt, which makes this the score’s third incarnation on disc. The classic Warner Bros. LP and CD were studio re-recordings of the film’s main themes, and some cues were cross-mixed with roaring car engine sound effects, as well as a gunshot and screaming crowds at the end.

Schifrin himself re-recorded the score for his Aleph label, and FSM’s CD marks the first time the original film score recording has been released. FSM’s also adding the shorter Warner Bros. album to their CD, which should make for some interesting comparisons, particularly in the jazz source cues and their respective improv solos.

England’s Harkit Records has reissued Jerry Goldsmith’s The Trouble With Angels (1966), a brief 28 min. score originally released by Mainstream Records on LP, and then on CD in 1991, where it was coupled with the composer’s Stagecoach score.

Silva Screen’s new roster includes music from two Doctor Who films from 1965 and 1966, Dr. Who and the Daleks, and Dalek’s Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., respectively, as well as Red Cliff (which I’ll review next week, alongside the original 2-part Chinese version, since the shorter American cut will likely be the only version available in Region 1 land for a while).

Peter Thomas’ music from the late sixties German boobery films Die Volkommmene Ehe and Das Leben Zu Zweit makes to CD via Chris Soundtrack Corner / All Score Media.

La-La Land Records’ next wave of titles includes Bill Conti’s That Championship Season (which I’ll also review next week), as well as Les Baxter’s Panic in Year Zero (previously available as a bootleg album, and as an isolated score track on the old Image laserdisc).

Kritzerland Records’ latest releases include Elmer Bernstein’s Love with the Proper Stranger and A Girl Named Tamiko (both sourced from the original 3-track stereo album masters), and Ernest Gold’s previously unreleased Pressure Point (taken from the composer’s mono tapes). The label’s prior goody was the pairing of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Billion Dollar Brain and Roy Budd’s The Final Option (both previously released by FSM in their MGM Soundtrack Treasury box).

Spain’s Singular Soundtrack, incidentally, just released Bennett’s Lady Caroline Lamb on CD.

Coming soon from Italy’s DigitMovies are Guido and Maurizio De Angelis’ Orzowei Il figlio della savana and Il Marsigliese, Gianni Ferrio’s Quei disperati che puzzano di sudore e di morte, Stelvio Cipriani’s Squadra volante and La polizia ringrazia, and Carlo Rustichelli’s Il Dominatore del Deserto, Maciste alla corte dello Zar, and I predoni della steppa.

Italy’s Avanz Entertainment will release Jessica on CD, a score composed by Mario Nascimbene (with some compositional credit to director Jean Negulesco). It’s unlikely the disc will include more music than the short UA LP, but the CD will also contain bonus tracks (4) from the 1967 spy spoof Dick Smart 2.007.

Lastly, Britain’s Network will released music from Edwin Astley’s Danger Man and Department S series on separate CDs.


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