Canada’s Top Ten, the TFCA Awards and my own 2011 favourites

Canada’s Top Ten, the TFCA Awards and my own 2011 favourites featured image

January 6, 2012
By Marc Glassman

‘Tis the season to look backwards.

2011 is over and as we’re all hailing the New Year, it’s time for all good critics to get retrospective. Yep, it’s time for all those “best of” lists to appear.

Happily, TIFF is doing more than publishing lists. Their annual Canada Top Ten runs from Jan. 5-15 at Bell Lightbox. Full disclosure: I was one of the jurors this year and am generally pleased with a democratic vote from a diverse group of cinephiles that included (among others) Vancouver filmmaker and musician Blain Thurier, Calgary International Film Festival programmer Brenda Lieberman, award-winning director/writer Patricia Rozema, Atlantic Film Festival programmer Andrew Murphy and Montreal producer Barbara Shrier.

TIFF’s Top Ten features are:
A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, dir),
Edwin Boyd (Nathan Morlando, dir.),
Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, dir.),
Monsieur Lazhar (Pierre Falardeau, dir.),
Hobo with a Shotgun (Jason Eisener, dir.),
Keyhole (Guy Maddin, dir.),
Starbuck (Ken Scott, dir.),
Marécages (Guy Edoin, dir.),
Café de Flore (Jean-Marc Vallée, dir)
Le Vendeur (Sebastien PIlote, dir.)
Those films are being screened with a top ten of shorts including Philippe Baylaucq’s Ora, Michelle Latimer’s Choke and TIFF 2011’s best Canadian short winner Ian Harnarine’s Doubles with Slight Pepper.

All of the films are worth seeing and TIFF is to be commended for offering a rare opportunity to view so many Canadian works. What strikes me is the range of material selected. There’s a quirky romance with serious consequences (Take This Waltz), a psychodrama with film noir and classical mythology trappings (Keyhole), an entertaining B-thriller (Hobo with a Shotgun), a mystical love story (Café de Flore) and a cops and robbers tale set in ‘40s Toronto (Edwin Boyd). And that’s only five out of ten.
If I have any misgivings about the list—and I do—it’s the lack of documentaries selected in the Top Ten. Where’s Surviving Progress or Wiebo’s War? Canada is a country famous for its docs; surely TIFF’s list should reflect our national strength.

Next Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) will host its annual Awards at a formal dinner
in the Carlu’s Round Room. Presenters will include David Cronenberg and TIFF’s Co-director Cameron Bailey. Full disclosure: I’m on the executive of the TFCA.

The TFCA’s Canadian winner will be announced at the gala; the following three films are the nominees: A Dangerous Method, Monsieur Lazhar and Café de Flore.

Already announced are the TFCA’s other major winners. They’re worth mentioning—and being celebrated—again.
Best International Film: Tree of Life (Terence Malick, dir.)
Best Performance, Female: Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
Best Performance, Male: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
Best Supporting Performance, Female: Jessica Chastain in Take Shelter
Best Supporting Performance, Male: Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Best Animated Feature: The Adventures of Tintin (Spielberg, dir.)
Best First Feature: Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, dir.)
Best Documentary: Nostalgia For the Light (Patricio Guzman, dir.)
Best Foreign Language Film: Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz, dir.)

At the gala, the Jay Scott Award for best emerging talent and the Student Award will also be announced.

A few thoughts before I offer you my favourite films of 2011.

  1. Tree of Life is one of the few films made with ambition this year. Love it or hate it, Malick’s film is an epic, directed with style and conviction. That said, it isn’t the best film of the year.
  2. Jessica Chastain deserves a special prize for her astonishing performances in such an eclectic series of roles: as the haunted housewife in Take Shelter; the Earth Mother in Tree of Life; the tipsy, neurotic Southern liberal in The Help; the dutiful daughter-in-law in Coriolanus; and the Israeli spy in The Debt.
  3. Christopher Plummer offers the role of a lifetime in his humble and moving portrayal as the gay father in Beginners.
  4. David Cronenberg goes from strength to strength as a director. Can’t wait for his next one, the futuristic thriller Cosmopolis.
  5. Anyone who cares about cinema will mourn the passing of the remarkable director Raul Ruiz—and applaud his swansong Mysteries of Lisbon.
  6. Nobody makes great comedy anymore—more’s the pity.
  7. In a year of great docs, Nostalgia for the Light stands out for its melding of the philosophical, the scientific and the political.

So what are my favourites for 2011?

Best Canadian Film: Monsieur Lazhar

It’s a wonderful, humanist tale, well acted and intensely political. The film will open later this month, on Jan. 27, and I’ll review it then.

Best Film: Beginners

Sometimes the best films are the ones that don’t advertise their ambitions. Mike Mills’ beautifully crafted film about love, humility and identity is wonderfully acted and exquisitely directed. It deserves for more acclaim than it received—apart from me, of course.

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