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Here’s what filmmakers are leaving under the tree this season

MOMMY – December 5

Canada’s official selection for this year’s best foreign film Oscar, Mommy was the featured film on the ByTowne Cinema’s November newsletter and is currently playing at the Mayfair Theatre. A flick this good certainly makes it easy to support domestic films—and this isn’t some Canadian pride or pity vote I’m putting up here. This is a well-reviewed and intense drama with good direction and performances all around. It’s not going to hit wide release until January, but you can catch it here in Ottawa before everyone starts buzzing about it.

—William Hume

TOP FIVE – December 5

Chris Rock received rave reviews and an immediate distributor pick-up at the Toronto International Film Festival with this film about an ultra-successful comedian undergoing a crisis. What I love about the movie so far is that every time I watch the trailer I laugh a little more. It’s a broadly appealing flick that’s not specifically targeted to a particular audience or taste in humour. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of some of Chris Rock’s earlier films, but this one really does look fresh and funny.

—William Hume

INHERENT VICE – December 12

Director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will be Blood) comes out with a movie every once in a blue moon. But when he does, it’s always worth the wait. This time around, he’s teaming up with an all-star cast to bring moviegoers a psychedelic film-noir that’s full of rampant drug use, weird facial hair, and funky ‘60s tunes. True to form, Anderson anchors this cinematic madness with a charismatic and unconventional lead, casting Joaquin Phoenix as a pot-smoking private eye with ridiculous mutton chops. Phoenix’s Doc Sportello is an intriguing creation who seems to be a hybrid of The Dude, Philip Marlowe, and Hunter S. Thompson. This kind of overt genre mash-up seems to be emblematic of the film as a whole, with a cast of quirky characters and an intentionally convoluted plot that’s a parody of, or a tribute to, old-school pulp detective novels. Either way, Inherent Vice looks like a hot mess of crazy that could definitely spice up the holiday movie season.

—Kyle Darbyson

MR. TURNER – December 19

If you’re tired of watching fake Hollywood crap this holiday season, why not drink in some high society entertainment with Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. This cinematic biopic follows the life of renowned English painter J.M.W. Turner, who some consider to be the greatest landscape artist who ever lived. This movie has already accumulated a lot of Oscar buzz, having come out of the Cannes Film Festival with a nomination for the Palme d’Or grand prize. But the real reason to see this movie is because of actor Timothy Spall, a hardworking character actor for more than 35 years. It’s about time he and his distinctively British scowl get the spotlight in a leading role. Even if you end up hating Mr. Turner, you can at least come out of the theatre feeling a smug sense of satisfaction knowing you went out of your way to watch a fancy period-piece drama about classic impressionist art. That’s got to be worth at least $11.

—Kyle Darbyson


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