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VIFF2012: With Our Film Fest Shuttered, The Oscar Season Begins

Oscar season 2012 begins

With Vancouver's International Film Festival fading into memory, what do cinephiles have to look forward to when it comes to cinema?

Fortunate for us, the end of VIFF harkens the beginning of Hollywood's serious season, that time of year when Paramount, Universal, Disney, Sony and the Weinstein Company release their catalogue of Oscar-contending great cinema into the darkened theatres located in neighbourhoods near to us. Yes, it is true that attending movies at our local multiplex can be a dear financial experience, and yes it is also true that theatre attendance, and movie box office, are down, way down from years past — fewer than half as many people go to movies today as was the case in the 1930s, and our population is two and a half times what it was then — but for lovers of cinema, the communal experience of seeing and feeling great movies while surrounded by our neighbours and friends and family emerges for us as an experience that is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives that we would no sooner forego the experience than forego the act of breathing.

Today, we will begin a review of the 20, or so, fine films that are either currently resident at a local multiplex near you, or are due to arrive to much fanfare in our humble little village by the sea over the coming 2½ months, as we point you in the direction of films that'll contend for Oscar, worthy of your most precious resource: your time and money and attention.

First up today, those well-reviewed, well-conceived Hollywood-funded artistic endeavours that have already found their way into our local multiplexes (Hollywood-funded art, almost a contradiction in terms, huh? ... but Hollywood does produce a few cinephile-friendly films each year, despite the mind-numbing corporate nullities they release through much of the rest of the year). The most-talked about artistic film endeavour of 2012 is ...

Both the most controverial and the most celebrated film of the year, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master has been referred to reverentially as a cinematic masterpiece, "mesmerizing in word and deed" (Kenneth Turan, LA Times), and "one of the great movies of the year — an ambitious, challenging, and creatively hot-blooded but cool toned project that picks seriously at knotty ideas about American personality, success, rootlessness, master-disciple dynamics, and father-son mutually assured destruction." (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). A certain Oscar contender, with Best Actor Oscar nods for Joachim Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who may drop down to Best Supporting Actor) a certainty, and a likely Best Supporting Actress nod for the wonderful Amy Adams a strong probability, this "brilliant, exasperating, challenging and unmissable" film (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune) demands the attention of any serious cinephile. Currently booked into Leonard Schein's Fifth Avenue Cinemas, as well as Cineplex-Odeon's Scotiabank downtown.

Argo. "A superbly crafted and darkly funny real-life political thriller, with pitch-perfect performances (Claudia Puig, USA Today), "a skilfully made grownup entertainment, combining an incredible true story with crafty thriller conventions (Tim Grierson, Screen Daily), who also writes ...

Based on the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Iran by militants, which forced six staff members to seek refuge in the Canadian embassy. With the Iranian Revolution raging and the American staffers in danger, CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) hatched a desperate plan: Work with a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and Oscar-winning makeup artist (John Goodman) to concoct a fake sci-fi movie and convince the Iranian authorities that the Americans are actually part of a Canadian film crew in Iran to scout locations. As preposterous as that plan sounds, Argo documents real events.

Runner-up for the Audience Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, with a Canadian-based, previously unknown to much of the world, story, superbly acted, well-conceived, placing Affleck in the first rank of American directors (he's been called "the new Clint Eastwood"), apart from all the Oscar foofaraw surrounding the film, Argo is a damn good entertainment. Screening at Scotiabank Theatre downtown, and at cinemas across Metro Vancouver. Clearly, Argo is very much a must-see film.

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While we're on the subject of must-see films, there are two more cinematic works of art that are playing in Vancouver that are likely to garner Oscar recognition, and given the reviews and the reception for the films must be considered films worthy of your time, both superbly constructed films screening at Cineplex Odeon's International Village Cinemas, in Yaletown.

A smash-hit at Sundance when it débuted in Park City, Utah earlier in the year, critics are of one mind about Arbitrage, whether it be Roger Ebert ...

Arbitrage represents a radical revision of traditional values. It is an attack on a new American mentality that values wealth above morality. Many of us may regard Robert Miller (Richard Gere) as an example of financial executives who knowingly sell worthless investments to people who trust them and then bet against them themselves. This was one of the Wall Street crimes that brought about the 2008 collapse. Charges were never filed against those thieves. They're still at work. Arbitrage is not only a great thriller, but a convincing demonstration about how the very rich can, quite literally, get away with murder.

Or any one of a dozen other reputable critics, all of whom agree that Arbitrage gives the audience a vital emotional workout (Owen Gleiberman, EW), offers an insanely gripping tale of high finance and low ethics (Bilge Ebiri, Vulture), and that début feature writer/director Nicholas Jarecki has created a refreshingly candid film, a combination of intelligent, grown-up writing, and an entertaining, audience-pleasing film of the first order.

One of the best-reviewed, most critically-acclaimed films of the year, with breakout performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller — all of whom you'll being hearing about and watching on screen for years to come — you should take in a screening of Stephen Chbosky's self-
adapted (from his 1999 best-selling novel) début feature, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a film celebrated as "honest and unsentimental, with a revelatory finale (Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times), and "tough-minded, an ecstatic expression of the beautiful solidarity of youth." (Owen Gleiberman, EW, who gives the film a full, and extremely rare rating for EW, Grade: A).

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 18, 2012 12:14 AM in Cinema


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