Tuesday 3 January 2017

HIS GIRL FRIDAY and THE FRONT PAGE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Legendary Newspaper Comedies from Howard Hawks & Lewis Milestone - perfect Criterion Collection bedfellows.

The Criterion Collection Blu/Ray and DVD release of His Girl Friday is an extra-special treat for lovers of the great Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play The Front Page. It's two for the price of one. Lewis Milestone's 1931 original + gender-substituting 1940 screwball romance by Howard Hawks.
Bickering reporters in love!!!
What a difference a decade makes!!!

The Front Page (1931)
Dir. Lewis Milestone
Starring: Adolphe Menjou, Pat O'Brien, Mary Brian, Mae Clark, Frank McHugh,
Edward Everett Horton, Slim Summerville, Clarence Wilson, George E. Stone,
Frank McHugh, Maurice Black, Clarence H. Wilson, Gustav von Seyffertitz

His Girl Friday (1940)
Dir. Howards Hawks
Scr. Charles Lederer
Ply. Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Alma Kruger,
John Qualen, Helen Mack, Gene Lockhart, Clarence Kolb, Abner Biberman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Everyone knows and loves the Howard Hawks-directed screwball romantic comedy His Girl Friday, a great picture about shady Chicago editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) and his attempts to keep ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) from getting married and leaving the newspaper business just as a big story is breaking; the hanging of a convicted murderer (John Qualen) who claims innocence, escapes and hides in the courthouse press room.

Of course, Walter loves Hildy and deep down she loves him too. If anything, Walter's real modus operandi is to scuttle the marriage of Hildy to her straight-laced fiancé played by Ralph Bellamy.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but His Girl Friday is probably the best romantic comedy of all time - bar none. The writing is first-rate, the dialogue sizzles with the top-of-the line proficiency of a T-fal full-immersion deep fryer, said dialogue is paced (and spat out by the pitch-perfect cast) with the velocity of a Belgian BRG-15 machine gun and the sturdy direction of Howard Hawks keeps most of the action to his solid, almost-trademark eye-level medium shots and longer takes with minimal cuts, respecting the frame like a proscenium that can occasionally be molded and moved when necessary.

This is filmmaking that has seldom been matched. These days, most comedies try to pathetically replicate what Hawks created so brilliantly by resorting to dull TV-style sit-com shot-coverage that's been unceremoniously goosed by ADHD back-and-forth editing. They're not fooling anyone - save for boneheads.

Make no mistake: His Girl Friday is dazzling, romantic and thrillingly original.

It didn't come first, though.

Walter loves Hildy. Hildy loves Walter.

The grand love story twixt Walter and Hildy hit the silver screen in a decidedly different version nearly a decade earlier than the Hawks masterpiece.

How many of you are familiar with The Front Page (1931)?

Based on the hit play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and directed by Lewis (All Quiet on the Western Front) Milestone, it's a great picture about shady Chicago editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) and his attempts to keep ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Pat O'Brien) from getting married and leaving the newspaper business just as a big story is breaking; the hanging of a convicted murderer (George E. Stone) who claims innocence, escapes and hides in the courthouse press room.

Walter loves Hildy and deep down he loves him too.


If anything, Walter's real modus operandi is to scuttle the marriage of Hildy to his straight-laced fiancé played by Mary Brian.

Bro-o-o-omance, nothing really gay about it
Not, that there's anything wrong with being gay
Bromance ,
Shouldn't be ashamed or hide it
I love you in the most heterosexual way.
- Chester See & Ryan Higa

Even though The Front Page falls within the relaxed pre-Code days and all manner of not-so-subtle homoeroticism could have crept into the film, this is never the intent (well, not mostly). The Front Page might well be the first BRO-mance in American cinema. Manly Walter and Hildy have no intention of sucking face or slamming their respective schwances up each other's Hershey Highways (though if given half the chance, they might). But nay, no corn-holing on the immediate horizon.

They love each other, like men - REAL MEN! And not to disparage homoeroticism at all, but to describe Walter and Hildy's love, allow me to present a few more lyrics from the See/Higa song:

If I loved you more I might be a gay
And when I'm feeling down
You know just what to say
You my homie,
Yeah you know me
And if you ever need a wingman
I'd let any girl blow me off
Cuz you're more important than the rest.

And that, in a nutshell (as it were), describes the manly love of The Front Page.

Milestone's film, produced by Howard Hughes, is a picture many have tried to watch (myself included) in the decades following its original release. Alas, it was almost impossible to sit through. The movie fell into public domain and was duped and duped and duped, again and again, from dupes made from dupes and then from other dupes, so many times over the years, that inferior copies had a clear effect upon making the picture seem creaky and vaguely unwatchable.

Not anymore. With this restoration we can now delight in what really makes this picture tick. And boy, does it tick. Like a time bomb and then some. (As a special bonus, the Criterion restoration comes from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version - WOW!)

In the play, all of the action takes place in the courthouse press room. Director Milestone and screenwriters Bartlett Cormack and Charles Lederer (the latter being the scenarist responsible for His Girl Friday) stay relatively true to the play, but occasionally open things up, but only in the most naturalistic manner. The dialogue blasts a few million miles per second and the milieu is appropriately grungy, replete with plenty of garbage strewn about and clouds of cigarette smoke.

The cast is full of terrific character actor mugs, wrapping their lips around the sharp-edged lines with all the snap, crackle and pop money could by. These men are inveterate bad husbands, gamblers, drunks, lice of the highest order, BUT they are great journalists, laying in wait for the kill like a pack of hyenas.

Milestone's camera brilliantly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the setting without choking us on theatrical sawdust. His camera moves deftly and fluidly, but when he needs to, he lets it sit to let the great dialogue do the talking - knowing full well that there's nothing more cinematic than scintillating banter. On stage, the importance of the telephones connected to the reporters' various outlets could not be stressed enough, but with Milestone's direction, it's not only paramount, but his coverage of moments when the men all grab the phones has the rat-a-tat-tat power of automatic gunfire.

Walter loves Hildy. Hildy loves Walter.

Pat O'Brien, who spent most of his career as a happy go lucky Irishman and/or priest, gets a rare opportunity here to indulge in his manner-than-manly qualities as Hildy. The dapper Adolphe Menjou is easily matched with Cary Grant's eventual shot at the role of the scurrilous newspaper editor Walter Burns. A supporting standout is the persnickety Edward Everett Horton as the fey reporter with a cleanliness fixation. Mary Brian acquits herself beautifully as O'Brien's lady in love and Mae Clark (known as the Baron's wife in James Whale's Frankenstein and as the moll whom Chaney pulverizes in the face with a grapefruit in The Public Enemy delivers one of the film's best performances as Molly Malloy, the hapless hooker with a heart of gold who desperately attempts to protect the innocent killer. She's so moving, it's hard not to get choked up over her selflessness and kindness.

Where The Front Page really crackles is its deeply black humour and satirical jabs at the entire business of both the media and politics. One hilariously nasty scene has reporter Frank McHugh questioning a woman victimized by a Peeping Tom while all the other guys in the press room bellow out catcalls and lewd, rude remarks. Another scene has a boneheaded Austrian psychiatrist (a great little cameo by Gustav von Seyffertitz) ordered to do a final examination of the falsely convicted killer. He wants the killer to recreate his crime and moronically requests the sheriff's gun (who even more moronically gives it up) and then hands the loaded pistol to the condemned man who, partially in fear and partially under hypnosis, fills the court-appointed psychiatrist full of lead. Even more hilarious is when Walter gets his hired thug Diamond Lou (a deliciously sleazy Maurice Black) to kidnap Hildy's future mother-in-law to keep her trap shut when she discovers the secret behind the big scoop the boys are onto.

Bitingly funny and oddly prescient is the fact that the poor condemned man is being railroaded by the Mayor and Sheriff to garner the African-American vote since the murder victim was one of Chicago's very few Black police officers. Neither clearly cares about any of this, save for getting re-elected. To see a film 85 years old, a comedy no less, dealing with such charged political material makes one realize just how bad and empty most comedies are today.

Dark political humour aside, The Front Page, like its gender-switching remake His Girl Friday IS about love: love for the newspaper business, love for the company of other men and most of all, love between Walter and Hildy. Don't get me wrong, though. The Front Page allows us not one, but two cakes that we can have and eat too: male-female romance in addition to the aforementioned manly BRO-mantic hijinx. That said, the machinations of Walter Burns to keep Hildy Johnson in the newspaper business, as well as a remarkable scene where the two men begin to reminisce about all their adventures together, IS downright warm, funny AND romantic.

For those who know and love His Girl Friday, The Front Page makes a lovely companion piece. You might even learn to love it just as much. (I know I do.) If you don't know either of the films, watch Milestone's film first, then the Hawks and then, cherish BOTH forever.

(Both Films and the Criterion Blu-Ray/DVD) ***** 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray and (if you must) DVD of His Girl Friday (and, yes, The Front Page in the same package) might well be one of the best home entertainment releases of the new millennium. It is replete with the standard Criterion bells and whistles including a new high-definition digital restoration of His Girl Friday (like The Front Page, it also fell into public domain and needed major sprucing up), an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a new 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, a new interview with film scholar David Bordwell about His Girl Friday, archival interviews with Howard Hawks, featurettes from 1999 and 2006 about Hawks, actor Rosalind Russell, and the making of His Girl Friday, a radio adaptation of His Girl Friday from 1940, radio adaptations of the play The Front Page from 1937 and 1946 (one of which stars the legendary Walter Winchell), a new piece about the restoration of The Front Page, a new piece about playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht, trailers, essays and gorgeous new cover art by Randy Glass.

There is one mild disappointment here.

In 2015, Kino-Lorber released a fine Blu-Ray of The Front Page. It included two extras that I wish Criterion had tried to spring for including on this disc. Firstly, there was a great little documentary about the Library of Congress film restoration program, but secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the Kino release features one of the best commentary tracks I've heard in years for any classic motion picture. Filmmaker, historian and home entertainment producer Bret Wood delivers a track that's entirely free of the usual crap on these things: no stupid anecdotal stuff, tons of great info about the film that even I didn't know before (and that takes some doing) and I thoroughly appreciated the variety of sources he uses (including whether they're corroborated or not). Wood's track is not only superbly researched, but his delivery is also terrific: clear, enthusiastic, but without sounding like a fanboy and NOT (thank God) sounding dry and academic.

Sunday 1 January 2017

10 BEST FILMS OF 2016 as selected by The Film Corner's Greg Klymkiw -includes Klymkiw's Worst Films of the Year and individual accolades forBest Director, Actress, Actor, Script, Etc.

I had such a great year at the movies that I am forced to cheat a bit with my annual Ten Best List. (You'll also find my individual craft accolades and my Worst of 2016 below.)

Here then are my selections of those pictures and achievements that tickled my fancy in 2016 and yes, there are plenty of ties amongst the lot. And yeah, I cheated. There are twenty five movies here, but they are all appropriately tied so YES, this IS a 10 Best List.

Don't like it? Don't read on. It's MY list and NOT YOURS or anyone else's, but Good Goddamn it's a solid list, so pay attention!!!

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Films of 2016

(tied with Dog Eat Dog and Under the Shadow)
Now, just the thought of a movie starring Brian Cox (Manhunter, Adaptation) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Killer Joe) as father-son coroners slicing and dicing their way into a nude, gorgeous haunted corpse is enough to tantalize the horror buds. That it's the first Engish-language film by the Norwegian Trollhunter director André Øvredal should send all horror aficionados into conniption fits of joy. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of the creepiest, scariest horror films of the year. With the uber-talented Øvredal at the helm, brilliantly utilizing the astonishingly-designed single-location set to maximum impact, we are drawn into a gloriously terrifying and happ-happ-happily sickening cesspool of sheer terror.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (tied with Suicide Squad)
In spite of myopic no-nothing critics who continue to crap on him, director Zack Snyder's virtuosity as a filmmaker battered me into glorious submission with this epic DC showdown twixt the alter egos of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. The picture places us in the realm of myth as it relates to 20th century political realities and beyond, but also brilliantly invokes elements of the Arthurian legends, not unlike Sir Thomas Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur". Add dollops of New Testament Golgotha fetishism to the mix and, "Bob's your Uncle!" (or in this case, your Uncle is Zack).
(tied with O.J.: Made in America and League of Exotique Dancers)
Using a raft of hidden cameras, Oscar-winning filmmaker Eva Orner chillingly exposes the evil committed by Australia on people who need the country's help, not its disdain. The Australian government, wanting to "protect" political refugees, implement a series of policies designed to "save" lives. That's what they tell us, anyway. The reality is that Australia does not want the bad publicity (and, uh, the inconvenience) of bodies washing up on their shorelines from refugee boats. Most of all, though, the country is run a bunch of ignorant racists who want to keep refugees out of their country - period! What the Aussie rulers have done is tantamount to cruel straight-up incarceration and torture. Orner's film is not only an eye-opener, but a powerful call to action for the rest of the world to speak out against these utterly horrifying, racist actions.
(tied with God Knows Where I Am and Quebec My Country Mon Pays)
This is a great movie! The meticulous detail with which screenwriter Craig Shilowich captures the ins-and-outs of a TV newsroom (not to mention the period detail) is a thing of beauty. He expertly charts the trajectory/descent of the title character (a stunning Rebecca Hall as the famed 70s TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck), never allowing us to feel like anything, structurally or otherwise, is familiar or by rote. Director Antonio Campos demonstrates the kind of control and careful virtuosity needed to navigate the waters of Christine's journey as she looks for love, wends through a complex relationship with her mother (with whom she lives), tries to maintain her journalistic principals, generate work that matters, secure a position in a larger TV market and, as if this wan't enough, deal with both psychological and physical maladies.
LE CIEL FLAMAND (tied with I Olga Hepnarova)
Single Mom Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) runs a tidy little brothel with her Mother. Bearing the moniker "Le Ciel Flamand" (the almost hilariously oxymoronic English translation is "Flemish Heaven"), the modest house of ill repute, nestled off a grubby highway under the grey Belgian skies, is adorned in red lights and within, it seems an especially cozy refuge for gentlemen seeking womanly release. Still, it is a brothel and Sylvie's six-year-old Eline (Esra Vandenbussche, Vertogen's real-life child) is never allowed inside and instead, spends her time in the car or in the company of the kindly Uncle Dirk (Wim Willaert), a dedicated bus-drivin' man of the hangdog schlemiel persuasion. When the child is sexually assaulted, this kitchen-sink exploration of both motherhood and loneliness leads to a virtual explosion of mad intensity which knocks you flat on your ass, precisely because of director Peter Monsaert's observational eye throughout and the quiet intensity which permeates this gorgeous, love-filled slice of humanity.
DOG EAT DOG (tied with The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Under the Shadow)
The first few minutes of Paul Schrader's adaptation of Edward Bunker's classic crime novel "Dog Eat Dog" plunges us into a kaleidoscopic, drug-fueled fantasia that juicily ramps up to one of the most shocking acts of violence imaginable and then the picture forcibly butt-blasts us raw into an even more appalling "OH-FUCK-NO-REALLY?" salvo of horrifyingly hilarious carnage. As the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, Light Sleeper, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, American Gigolo, Auto Focus and the insanely brilliant and unfairly-drubbed The Canyons, the very idea of Schrader directing a Bunker adaptation makes the mouth water. The execution goes well beyond anticipatory salivation - Schrader pins us to the floor and fiercely has his way with us. And we cum and we cum and we cum. Following the adventures of three inept, albeit vicious criminals (Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook) yields the best crime picture of the year.
(tied with Christine and Quebec My Country Mon Pays)
Too many filmmakers forget about the power of poetry in cinema. This is especially endemic in documentary work where far too many pictures simply impart the facts and/or become so wrapped up in "story" that no matter how proficient the films are, they are - as films - all about the issue and/or subject matter at the centre of the work. This does not plague Todd and Jedd Wider's God Knows Where I Am. The picture is an absolute heartbreaker and a good deal of its success is directly attributable to its pace, style and structure which generates a film infused with all the qualities of the sublime. I challenge anyone to not weep profusely at several points within its elegiac 99-minute running time as the picture charts the last weeks of Linda Bishop (beautifully voiced from her diaries by executive producer Lori Singer), an intelligent, sensitive middle-aged woman found dead in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse.
HACKSAW RIDGE (tied with Maliglutit/Searchers)
Let's put Mel Gibson's bilious private life aside - God knows we're happy to do it for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen - and let us embrace the fact that he is one of America's greatest living filmmakers. From his populist Oscar-winning historical epic Braveheart, to the numbingly spiritual Passion of the Christ and through to the genuinely insane Apocalypto, Gibson has proven, time and time again that he's the real thing, an artist of uncompromising vision. Hacksaw Ridge puts Gibson right over the top. With this mad, frenzied magnificently impassioned biopic of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty, Gibson sends the Richter scales of Cinema into nuclear overdrive. Veering from gloriously romantic to gob-smackingly violent, Gibson straps us into a straightjacket and grinds our faces into the beauty of love, the horror of war and the near-Christ-like ascension to faith in everlasting life. And the battle scenes, oh the battle scenes: they have few equals.
Is it possible for anyone to have a happy day in Finland? Well, amateur boxer and former Olympic champ Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) hopes so. It's 1962 and he's been entered into a professional bout in Helsinki against the formidable American fighter Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.), a lean, mean boxer with over 60 wins behind him. Can a sweet, young fighter from the sticks really hold his own in a bout touted as Finland's big shot at boxing supremacy on the world stage? For all intents and purposes, Olli is Finland's "Great White Hope" and the pressures placed upon him seem insurmountable. Worst of all, Olli is severely distracted. He's falling in love. This is one of the best boxing films ever made. Filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen's direction is infused with attention to the smallest details and results in a picture where the stuff of life provides indelible moments of dramatic and emotional resonance far beyond the cliches which litter so many sports films. The love story itself is wildly, deliriously romantic to the point of instilling the most delightful frissons of loving goooseflesh. It's one of the few movies I've seen which manages to create a feeling of butterflies in the tummy which only mad, passionate love can inspire.
HELLO DESTROYER (tied with Old Stone and Werewolf)
In addition to the most Canadian movie never made in Canada, Slap Shot, Canada itself has yielded a number of terrific pictures about its National Sport (Face Off, Paperback Hero, Goon), but none with the genuine force and power of Hello Destroyer. Writer-Director Kevan Funk paints a veritable portrait of Hell; a stylized blend of expressionism and neorealism that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Prince George, British Columbia is often considered Canada's most dangerous city, but in Funk's dazzling feature-length debut, it's not the criminal element anyone need fear, but rather, Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson), the newest recruit of the city's minor league hockey team The Warriors. He's a goon, you see. His job is to provide muscle and he delivers the goods with a cool viciousness. Alas, there is something far more brutal and dangerous in the world of hockey than fists and lumber smashed into the teeth - it's politics. When Tyson's enforcing results in a horrifying and tragic incident during a game, our hero meets his biggest adversary of all; shame, shunning and aimlessness.
I, DANIEL BLAKE (tied with A Quiet Passion)
In a world where the poor seem to be better off dying than face the indignity of their supposed benefactors, one wonders what's more evil - the government or its vile, petty bureaucrats who coldly implement policies designed to keep people down whilst supporting the greed of the 1%. Ken Loach, one of cinema's great humanitarians, takes us on a harrowing roller coaster ride of those caught up in the cold-blooded silos of social assistance in contemporary Britain. I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a 59-year-old skilled construction worker (Dave Johns) who suffers a heart-related accident on the job and rightfully applies for benefits. In spite of his serious condition and a desire to get better and return to work, a soulless clerk purporting to be a "medical expert" ticks off a ludicrous series of boxes which deny him basic care. Funny, bittersweet and tear-wrenching, the picture will certainly preach to the converted with aplomb, but should be required viewing for every petty bureaucrat in the world. They kill, you see. They are the minions of the world's true evil.
I, OLGA HEPNAROVA (tied with La Ciel Flamand)
A grim, superbly realized feature-length dramatic biography about the last person ever executed in Czechoslovakia. Writer-directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb have crafted a compulsive, moving and shocking film about mental illness as a genuine affliction. It can result in evil actions, but the perpetrators are, more often than not, sick in mind, body and soul. Healing and caring has escaped them. I, Olga Hepnarová speaks not just for one, but all of them. The astonishing young actress Michalina Olszanska plays mass-murderer Hepnarová from age 13 to her death 10 years later. She manages to pull off the near-impossible task of a poker-faced intensity that forces us to look beneath the veneer and into her eyes, which alternate between shark-like death stares and deep humanity, ranging from innate intelligence, sensitivity and confusion, to pain and anger, and even, on occasion, humour. She delivers one of the great screen performances of the new millennium and it serves the superb screenplay and austere mise en scène perfectly.
(tied with O.J.: Made in America and Chasing Asylum)
Director Rama Rau trains cinematographer Iris Ng's expert lens upon a group of exotic burlesque dancers who are not only still with us, but are on the precipice of their induction into the Burlesque Hall of Fame, which will include more than the mere ceremony, but full-on burlesque shows by a number of these great ladies. The interviews included in the film not only provide a rich history of burlesque, but reveal a cornucopia of insights into the themes of female power, grace and showmanship during a time when women in North America were viewed by most men as Madonnas or Whores, Housewives or Harlots, Molly Maids or Madams (and maybe even a healthy/unhealthy mixture of the aforementioned couplings). The inclusion of the gorgeous, supremely intelligent and truly legendary Kitten Natividad made the whole movie sing for me. Director Rau importantly focuses on Natividad's professional and personal relationship with the great Master filmmaker Russ (Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up!) Meyer.
MALIGLUTIT/SEARCHERS (tied with Hacksaw Ridge)
Inspired by John Ford's The Searchers, Zacharias Kunuk serves up one of the most compelling and exciting action-adventure pictures of the year. Set against the backdrop of the Canadian north, a father and son obsessively chase after a group of men who slaughter much of their family and kidnap their women. That's it - on the surface. Below the simple veneer, a tale of family, love and a culture rooted in a land of harsh beauty roils with uncompromising resonance. Kunuk captures the rich tradition of the Inuk people and his visual storytelling acumen reaches a dazzling pinnacle. He paints a portrait of good guys and bad guys, but does so with the kind of deep strokes which reveal humanity on both ends of the spectrum.
MOONLIGHT (tied with She's Allergic to Cats and Natasha)
Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins, this exquisitely unique film in three “movements” stars Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes as a young African-American coming of age. We share his journey through life from childhood (as a sensitive bullied kid living with his crack-addicted mother), adolescence (as a kid discovering his sexuality on the cusp of manhood) to early adulthood (as a man seeking truths which have so far eluded him). We experience this man's life in a cinematic chamber piece that is as poetically musical as it is evocative in ways that are both culturally specific and universal at the same time.
NATASHA (tied with Moonlight and She's Allergic to Cats)
Given the ongoing richness of the immigrant experience in Canada, a country with an official policy of multiculturalism, it's so important for our cultural industries to tell these stories and reflect our mosaic as it shifts across time. Natasha, written and directed by Canadian filmmaker David Bezmozgis is an especially layered, intelligent and evocative portrait of immigrant life in Canada. Darkness is what ultimately wends its way through this moving, romantic tale. It makes the light seem brighter when it needs to be, but on occasion the light of day - in both exterior and interior settings - take on a portent which ultimately delivers on a classical coming-of-age story that hurts as much as it offers hope. The hurt, is familiar - not familiar in terms of the filmmaking, but in the haunting and decidedly unidealistic experiences felt by the film's characters that we, as an audience, recognize in our own experience. This, of course, is what makes terrific pictures. Natasha is one of them.
(tied with Chasing Asylum and League of Exotique Dancers)
Ezra Edelman's epic documentary portrait of O.J. Simpson is no simple biography. Running just under eight hours long, we are, of course, led through the ins-and-outs of the former football/movie star's life: his rise to fame, his criminal and civil trials for murder and his eventual incarceration for armed robbery and kidnapping, but Edelman, deftly weaving existing footage and new interviews, has crafted a work that is so much more. It is ultimately the story of racism, class and justice in America and as such, the film takes one of the most notorious figures in 20th Century American history and creates a tragedy on a Shakespearean scale - one that proves to be as moving and incendiary as anything wrought before on film. It is not simply a film about being "made" in America, it stands as a truly great history of America itself.
OLD STONE (tied with Hello Destroyer and Werewolf)
In Johnny Ma's extraordinary first feature film Old Stone, Lao Shi (Chen Gang) is a cab driver who accidentally hits a motorcyclist in the street and soon realizes he should not have bothered to stop and most certainly not bothered to help. Because of China's idiotic laws, his life becomes a nightmare: his job is in jeopardy, his finances are drained and his family, by extension, are placed in peril, financially and emotionally. The movie is engorged with suspense and induces considerable anxiety in the viewer. That it slowly mounts to a chilling series of events which inspires a kind of horror and revulsion in us, not only speaks to the power of the picture, but Johnny Ma as a filmmaker with talent to burn. What keeps our eyeballs, hearts and minds glued to the screen is the exceptional performance of Chen Gang. He infuses the role with so much humanity, doing so to the point in which we're feeling frustration and anger because he makes us care about Lao Shi so goddamn much. Gang also has charisma to burn. The camera absolutely loves him. I have no idea why this guy isn't a huge star.
(tied with Christine and God Knows Where I Am)
Master filmmaker John Walker has chosen a delightfully original way into his own very personal story of abandoning the place he loved and still loves more than any other. It's a deftly handled history of Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" that's presented with a combination of superb archival film clips, still images, interviews from Anglo-Quebecers who identify as Quebecers, Quebecers who want their province to separate from Canada and a myriad of the province's greatest artists and thinkers, including Oscar-winning director Denys Arcand, writer Paul Warren and screenwriter Louise Pelletier. Especially touching is Walker's exploration of his own family's generations-old history in Quebec and its relationship to his contemporary dilemma of loving a place that feels inextricably rooted in his soul, yet seems so distant all the same. Walker's created a film anyone can call their own. Who has not been touched by a sense of place and at worst, forced to leave it and at best, always fearing what one might do if forced to leave it behind? Walker's film is his history, Quebec's history, Canada's history and by the film's very structure, a history we all share - not just in Canada, but the rest of the world.
A QUIET PASSION (tied with I, Daniel Blake)
Terence Davies is unquestionably the greatest living filmmaker in the UK and amongst the world's best filmmakers - ever. His quietly passionate dramatic film biography of poet Emily Dickinson features his trademark tableaux, gorgeous stately pace and his indelible use of music (here being the music of poetry). Cynthia Nixon knocks the wind out of you with her astonishing performance and an almost unrecognizable Keith Carradine chills to the bone. What might be the films's greatest triumph is that one could go into it knowing NOTHING about Emily Dickinson and emerge with both an edifying cinematic experience AND a reason to get to know her.
SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS (tied with Moonlight and Natasha)
Though there is no official genre called "schlubs who get to successfully seduce babes", She's Allergic To Cats would definitely be leading the charge if such a thing did officially exist - it's kind of like a Woody Allen picture on acid through the lens of wonky, nutty 80s video art. I found the picture endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic. Nebbish hero Mike Pinkney has a dream: to make a feature film homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie - with CATS!!! Amidst the slacker/McJob existence he leads, Mike miraculously hits it off with Cora (Sonja Kinski - Nastassja's daughter, Klaus's granddaughter) a mega-babe who happily agrees to a date. The entire love story is mediated through Mike's filmmaking/video-art perspective. The result is a chiaroscuro-like melange of garish "video" colours, cheesy (though gorgeous) dissolves and plenty of sexy video tracking errors.
SUICIDE SQUAD (tied with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Oh, to be a kid again! What pure, unadulterated joy! And I have writer-director David Ayer to thank for this happy blast into my past. Suicide Squad has cool heroes, even cooler villains, high stakes for the world of the film (and its characters) and most of all, it's infused with sacrifice, sentiment and a big heart. It's also gorgeously shot, snappily edited, overflowing with a great selection of immortal classic songs, an original score that pounds with power and replete with a juicy ensemble cast. Seriously. What's not to like? Or, for that matter, love? What we essentially get here is a comic book remake of The Dirty Dozen - one that still manages to resonate with freshness and originality. The simple idea of villains/criminals being used to fight evil drives the picture and Ayer's wonkily wonderful script offers up a fun first third which provides lively origins for the various criminals who will make up the suicide squad of super heroes. And, Jared Leto's rendering of The Joker manages to leave Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger behind like so much dust in the wind. Leto is: THE. BEST. JOKER. EVER. (Well, Caesar Romero comes close, but Leto even blows the Mad Latin Lover to smithereens.)
TONI ERDMANN (tied with The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki)
If you do the wrong math on Toni Erdmann, you might be tempted to assume a 162-minute running time and its country of origin (Germany) will yield an unbearably dreary slog, so whatever you do, don't be a dumkopf in your calculations; Maren Ade's lovely picture yields one of the funniest, most heartwarming and celebratory experiences you'll have at the movies this year. Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a hangdog retired old schlub who perks up his life (and those around him, when they're so willing) with a seemingly endless supply of practical jokes which he pulls off with costumes (including fake buck teeth) and a totally straight face. His adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller), a public relations executive in the field of international relations is less amused. Her poker face in the joy department matches Winfried's in the gag sweepstakes. There's clearly a deep love between father and daughter, but also an estrangement as she's tried to move on and create a life and career for herself. Father-daughter relationships have their own unique complexities and writer-director Ade captures this dynamic with considerable artistry.
UNDER THE SHADOW (tied with The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Dog Eat Dog)
Living in Tehran during the eight long years of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s was terrifying enough with endless bombs dropping. Eventually, with the threat of missiles from Iraq, the city emptied to ghost town proportions. Against this backdrop is one of the most creepy, harrowing and heart-stoppingly scary movies of the year. Writer-Director Babak Anveri displays such control over the proceedings that the visceral moments have the kind of impact we seldom see in contemporary horror films. The film is dazzling and original and one of the few movies that flirts with being genuinely in the same league as The Exorcist.
WEREWOLF (tied with Hello Destroyer and Old Stone)
A young woman seeks to escape a life of homelessness and drug dependency as the young man who loves her spirals ever downward as she ascends. Director Ashley McKenzie’s debut feature is rife with Neo-realist touches, but a wholly original mise-en-scene ultimately rules the day. Placing emphasis on single (and often strange) visual details in every scene is what forces certain mundane realities to eventually take on earth-shattering resonance. That we see ourselves and those we know in a world most of us can only imagine is a testament to the filmmaker's consummate artistry.

Greg Klymkiw's Craft Accolades/Awards 2016
Yes, there are ties here. Don't like it? Screw you!!!

Best Director (Tie)
Marian Ade - Toni Erdmann
Terence Davies - A Quiet Passion
Mel Gibson - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Actor (Tie)
Dave Johns - I, Daniel Blake
Peter Simonischek - Toni Erdmann

Best Actress (Tie)
Rebecca Hall - Christine
Michalina Olzsanska - I, Olga Hepnarova

Best Supporting Actor (Tie)
Jared Leto - Suicide Squad
Tracy Letts - Christine

Best Supporting Actress (Tie)
Sonja Kinski - She's Allergic To Cats
Lori Singer - God Knows Where I Am

Best Original Screenplay (Tie)
Terence Davies - A Quiet Passion
Craig Shilowich - Christine

Best Screenplay Adaptation (Tie)
Barry Jenkins - Moonlight
Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Best Cinematography (Tie)
Simon Duggan - Hacksaw Ridge
Adam Sikora - I, Olga Hepnarova

Best Editing (Tie)
Keiko Deguchi - God Knows Where I Am
John Gilbert - Hacksaw Ridge

Best Musical Score (Tie)
Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans - The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Rupert Gregson-Williams - Hacksaw Ridge

Greg Klymkiw's WORST movies of 2016
(in alphabetical order)