The Oscar-nominated short "Paperboy" screens at TIFF this weekend
With the Academy Awards just weeks away, we’re in full-on movie mode. Thankfully, there are two film programs opening this weekend that will satiate all of our cinema cravings: TIFF’s Oscar Shorts — showing all the films nominated in the Best Live Action and Animated Short categories — and Cineplex’s The Great Digital Film Festival, which gives favourite flicks the digital treatment on the big screen.
Below, our top picks from each film event. (Bonus: we give you the heads-up on which shorts have the best shot at winning an Academy Award on Feb. 24, so you can hopefully win your Oscar pool.)
Henry (The Front-Runner)
If you’ve seen Amour, this feels like the short version. An elderly French pianist searches for his wife, while recounting his past, as he prepares for a very important concert. Heart-warming while sobering, it’s not quite as powerful as the Michael Haneke film, but it sure is close.
Asad (The Challenger)
A Somali boy grows up surrounded by death and piracy in his small seaside village, trying to create an honest life for himself. Harun Mohammed as Asad is incredibly captivating, carrying a hopeful film with wit, emotion and a surprising amount of uncertainty and suspense. Nearly all the actors in the film are Somali refugees.
Curfew (The Long Shot)
A dark and quirky entrant, this short opens on Richie, a young man immersed in a bloody bathtub in another half-hearted suicide attempt. His estranged sister calls; she is in desperate need of a babysitter for her daughter, and he reluctantly accepts. The odd pair head out for an evening of awkwardness, discovery and the occasional dance interlude.
Paperman (The Front-Runner)
Shown by Disney ahead of the animated feature Wreck-It Ralph last year, it’s hard not to be enamoured by this imaginative love story. A chance meeting with a beautiful woman finds our titular paperman in love, and when he spots her working at the office building across the street, his quest to woo her begins. This will warm the heart and wet the eyes.
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (The Challenger)
It’s a bit of an unfair advantage that The Simpsons are in the running, but this entry, which finds Maggie trapped in the Ayn Rand Daycare School, is very deserving. Filled with the usual cultural and literary references, The Longest Daycare is wonderful, simple storytelling with charm and heart.
Fresh Guacamole (The Long Shot)
At under two minutes, this strange stop-motion animated film likely won’t win, but it sure is fun to watch. A mysterious cook prepares a unique bowl of dip, and strangeness ensues. Though it still looks delicious.
The Indiana Jones Trilogy
Why watch just one film featuring the greatest archaeologist of all time when you can watch all three of them in a row on the big screen? And while it’s understandable that the films are showing in order of their release date(The Temple of Doom will not be presented as the prequel it actually is), we can’t recommend staying around for the fourth installment (The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), which will also be shown as part of the festival. If you missed it the first time it hit theatres, you can miss it again.
This is one not to be missed, in any format, but especially in a theatre setting. Become terrified and rapt and enamored once again watching a film that’s great for its story, not its special effects.
This gritty and entrancing South Korean revenge thriller from 2003 is an assault on the mind. A man has been held captive for 15 years, and when he finally finds a way out, he sets out on a quest of vengeance. This is a brilliantly told and stylish film that everyone should see once.
The Fifth Element
Before Gary Oldman turned to playing good guys, and before Bruce Willis got old, they both starred in what is still one of the most fun and novel science fiction films around. Along with The Matrix, this is the best movie to be enhanced by the digital format, but this one is funnier, sexier and way more bizarre.
Cockneys vs. Zombies
Getting its premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, this British zombie action-comedy is filled with wit, charm and plenty of bloody kills as a group of small-time crooks try to rescue their families when London’s East End becomes overrun with the undead.
The Great Digital Theatre Festival, Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond St. W., 416-368-5600. Feb. 1-7.
The Live Action and Animated Oscar Shorts, TIFF Lightbox Theatre, 350 King St. W., 416-968-3456. Feb. 1-7.