The Notscars: Predicting winners that aren’t even nominated


Oscar predictions that stick to nominated films are boring. No one wants to read another forecast of a sweep by The Revenant or some contrarian making a sleeper case for Bridge of Spies. Besides, the films the Academy overlooks in each category make for a far more interesting list than the ones they spend hours honouring, as evidenced by the blinding whiteness of this year’s nominees.

None of the following films or people are nominated for these respective categories, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to win.

Best Picture

Sicario

Much like my best blockbusters of 2015 list, which was mistaken for my list of favourite films, Sicario is misunderstood. The action set-pieces are visceral enough to make viewers believe they’re the point of the film, but it’s much more than another pro-American war screed.

If anything, Denis Villeneuve’s dark tone poem about the war on drugs is an indictment of America’s militaristic foreign policy, which Sicario strongly suggests leads to an unending cycle of escalating violence and a normalization – even commodification – of said violence. The eventual rationale for all of the bloodshed in the film is akin to trying to put a genie back in a bottle by shooting the bottle (and the genie).

When Emily Blunt’s protagonist raises moral and ethical objections, she isn’t doing so as a woman out of her depth in a man’s world, but as a person with strong convictions baffled by the inhuman machinations that surround her. We should all be as concerned as her – and Sicario – about actions committed in the name of concepts like freedom and democracy.

Director

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

The most exciting part about Villeneuve’s rise to mainstream prominence is how his distinct cinematic voice remains uncompromised. Sicario’s undercurrent of tension and dread was mapped out in his earlier work, from Polytechnique to Enemy and Prisoners.

No detail is spared pulling the viewer into a world ruled by misdirection and brutality. Take the scene where an American convoy of SUVs barrels through Juarez. You feel every bump in the road when you ride along with a Mexican police escort, you feel the anxiety when the convoy comes to a screeching halt at the wrong time, and by the time the scene is over you’re left wondering how moral complexity can feel this thrilling. If this is a land of wolves, Villeneuve is the alpha.

Actor

Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation

I considered putting Jason Segel here because his work as David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour deserves recognition, but #OscarsSoWhite, so I’ll go with the man who was called “too street” to be James Bond instead.

Yes, Abraham Attah gets top billing and his face on the poster for Beasts of No Nation, but the film runs on the energy of Elba’s onscreen presence. His potent combination of swagger and menace is all-consuming as cult leader and general of his child army, but he never loses sight of his character’s humanity, which makes his eventual downfall inevitable, tragic, and completely believable.

Supporting Actor

Benicio del Toro – Sicario

I could try to explain what makes this performance so timeless, but I’ll leave that to one of Benicio’s few lines from Sicario:

“You’re asking me how a watch works. For now, just keep an eye on the time.”

Actress/Supporting Actress

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor – Tangerine

Tangerine is the most un-Hollywood film to come out of Los Angeles: a charming tale about a day in the life of two transgender prostitutes, set to trap music and shot on an iPhone. If that sounds like a complete mess to you, Rodriguez and Taylor deserve a lot of credit for grounding the film with painfully human performances that are equal parts honest and absurd, and always engaging.

Original Screenplay

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

It’s not as though Tarantino is forging a new path with his latest film, in which he took many of the themes and ideas he has explored previously and crammed them into a cabin in a blizzard in the 19th century as part of a statement about the American dream. The Hateful Eight’s savage, lyrical dialogue works because for once Tarantino doesn’t seem like he’s trying to impress anyone (other than himself).

Adapted Screenplay

Donald Margulies – The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour is basically two writers in a car. It’s an interview at the end of a book tour. This film has no business being as poignant and touching as it is, and while a lot of that has to do with excellent performances Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, Margulies’ script captures the naturalistic flow of two articulate, flawed individuals trying to make sense of their worlds.

Documentary

Adam Curtis – Bitter Lake

Bitter Lake probably wasn’t even eligible to be nominated for an Oscar. It received no theatrical or broadcast premiere and was released exclusively online by the BBC, with no distribution or publicity outside of the UK. This is a problem, because Bitter Lake is a history lesson America desperately needs.

Taking its name from the location of the Quincy Agreement – when FDR traded security for oil with Saudi Arabia in 1945 – the archival collage documentary charts the course of Western foreign intervention (among other things) from the end of World War II to the 21st century, using Afghanistan as its fulcrum.


Bitter Lake (2015) – Adam Curtis Documentary… by forthedishwasher

Curtis has made a career out of shedding light on the hidden history of recent events, but none of his previous work feels as complete or as important as Bitter Lake. Do yourself a favour and watch it.

Foreign Film

Sebastian Schipper – Victoria

It’s easy to forget Victoria is one continuous shot over two hours long once the film sucks you into its dizzying world of Berlin nightlife and youthful overconfidence. The less said about the plot, the better. Just be ready for a trip.

The Greatest Oscar Trolls of All Time


We all love to hate the Oscars, and who can blame us? It’s an evening that combines the insider back-slapping of an awards ceremony with the suffocating cultural dominance of the Super Bowl, all glossed in a smarmy veneer of tradition and prestige. At least the Golden Globes offer the possibility of drunken celebrity antics as a distraction, but the Academy Awards are as self-serious as they are inescapable.

Despite all this hate, very few people receive that golden opportunity to share it with the world during the Academy’s special night. It’s not enough to simply be nominated or appear on stage; you have to actually win an award (or host the show) to have enough of a chance to tell everyone where they can stick their golden statuettes. Those who make it that far tend to have an affinity for the Oscars, either on merit (taste is a fickle mistress), or because they can’t ignore the career-bolstering prospects of winning one.

Unless your name is Marlon Brando, whose career needed absolutely no help when he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Instead of accepting the award (or even attending the ceremony), Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to lecture the film industry and America in general about the mistreatment of indigenous cultures. While Leonardo DiCaprio attached a similar message to the end of his Golden Globes acceptance speech for The Revenant, Brando’s grand gesture remains the gold standard of Oscar trolling.

None of these other examples reach Brando’s level, but they are all admirable efforts, each of which I will rate on a scale of 1-10 Brandos.

The Refusal Club

Brando wasn’t the only person to refuse an Oscar. He wasn’t even the first. Screenwriter Dudley Nichols refused to accept an award for writing The Informer in the 1930s in solidarity with the writers strike at the time, and George C. Scott famously refused in 1970 when he won for Patton, stating he didn’t feel he was in competition with other actors and referring to the ceremony as a “meat parade.”

Both of these refusals are admirable, but aside from the Scott’s meat parade comment, they lack the misanthropy and schadenfreude of a good troll, so I’m going to give them 5/10 Brandos.

Redgrave And The Z-word

Vanessa Redgrave got creative with her trolling when she won Best Supporting Actress in 1978, going after an issue close the heart of the film industry – the Israel/Palestine conflict – rather than the film industry itself. Redgrave’s open support of Palestinian rights put her at odds with many of her peers, and her nomination for a film that had nothing to do with the Middle East drew loud protests from the Jewish Defense League.

Redgrave was the first Oscar winner of the night. Apparently, she thought putting all her opponents on blast would set the right tone for the rest of the ceremony.

The highlight of Redgrave’s rant is the incendiary “Zionist hoodlums” remark, which is the kind of easy-bake troll phrase that would inspire millions of angry tweets if someone said it this Sunday. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Redgrave’s politics, getting up and saying those words in front of that audience takes some serious lady-balls, which is why I give this 8/10 Brandos.

Franco Phones It In

The Oscars are about as cool as Hillary Clinton, but they’re always finding convenient ways to ignore how hopelessly out-of-touch they are with young people. The Academy ignored the issue again in 2011 by picking two youthful actors out of a hat, selecting James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts and setting the stage for what can only be described as a high-art performance of longform Oscar trolling by Franco.

There’s no point of comparison for Franco’s career trajectory, aside from maybe a drunken sparrow with a clipped wing. His acting resume his filled with indie detours and vanity projects, and the list of colleges he has attended rivals his blockbuster filmography. Every time Franco is on the cusp of superstardom, he sidesteps it in a way that seems incredibly ill-advised, but follows its own internal logic. He’s basically a film industry Kanye West, only he gets more leeway because he’s white.

Franco entered the 2011 the Oscars as host and a nominee for Best Actor, with his starring role in that summer’s Planet of the Apes reboot looming on the horizon. Everything was looking up, which made it the perfect time for Franco to tear it all down and deliver a dismissive middle finger to those in the industry who saw him as the next mindless rom-com heartthrob or superhero action figure stand-in.

Or maybe he was really stoned. We’ll never know.

It’s not that Franco didn’t want to be there so much as he just wasn’t there at all. His demeanour suggests someone whose focus was far away from the teleprompter, or Los Angeles county for that matter. Franco mumbles while looking at his shoes, steps on punchlines, and glances around with a facial expression that’s equal parts bemused, bored, and blissful, all while Hathaway flails around in a desperate attempt to counter his apathy.

Refusing the hosting gig would have simply left the spot open for a young celebrity likely eager to make a good impression, but ostensibly buying into the Academy’s cynical appeal to coolness allowed Franco to sabotage the awards from the inside by becoming the living embodiment of dead air and leaving a massive hole in the proceedings when they needed him most.

9.5/10 Brandos.

The U.S. Presidential Campaign Needs More Candidate/Rapper Pairings Like Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike


My Canadian heritage has never prevented me from appreciating the spectacle of an American presidential campaign. Big money, bigger rhetoric, and very little concern for reality ensures a fresh sideshow south of the border every four years and I’m not one to turn down free entertainment.

Like any big American production, presidential campaigns can’t resist using celebrity cameos to generate interest among a wider audience. Think about it: nobody remembers anything about the 2012 Republican National Convention aside from that bit where Clint Eastwood mistook a chair for the president. 2016 is no different, with Bernie Sanders gaining the vocal support of Killer Mike – best known as one half of hip hop wrecking crew Run The Jewels.

Killer Mike is no stranger to political statements…

…but his involvement in Sanders’ campaign goes beyond any lyrical namedrop. Killer Mike has a six-part interview with Sanders on his YouTube channel and he spoke on the senator’s behalf after a Democratic party debate, marking the only time in history the spin room has ever been enjoyable.

If Sanders gains enough support to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, it could (and should) send other candidates rushing to find their own hip hop sidekicks. I have no clue who each candidate would select, but I have a few ideas (Kendrick Lamar is disqualified because he is too tight with Obama to rep for anyone else):

Hillary Clinton / Nicki Minaj


Minaj and Clinton are two women trying to carve out a place at the top of their male-dominated fields (rapping and being president, respectively). That might be all they have in common, and Minaj isn’t quite on Team Clinton yet, but that’s nothing a little face-time and an undisclosed campaign consultant fee couldn’t fix. Forget Clinton and Sanders, the people want to see a debate (read: rap battle) between Minaj and Killer Mike.

Martin O’Malley / Meek Mill


Mill would be the perfect face for whining about how O’Malley isn’t getting enough attention. Maybe he could respond with a dis track on a mixtape released months too late to have any impact. Maybe both of these guys should stop picking fights outside their weight classes if they want to stop being pummeled. Just a thought.

Donald Trump / Watch The Throne


Watch The Throne is the ultimate luxury-rap album, and Trump could decorate his most ostentatious mansion with Kanye’s tweets about Persian rugs and Jay Z’s lyrics about art auctions. On this front, Watch The Throne seems like the ideal pairing for Trump and his epic comb-over. You’ll need to ignore all the divisive, xenophobic garbage Trump spews every time he opens his mouth, so just try to stay focused on the money.

Also, Trump’s brand of combination spray tan and hair dye comes pretty close to matching this album art:

Ted Cruz / Drake


The Canadian connection! Cruz will tap into Drake’s appeal in the American heartland and Drake will do the Hotline Bling dance at the 2016 RNC.

imgur.com


How could anyone say no to this?

Marco Rubio / Macklemore


I’m not sure why, but Rubio strikes me as the kind of candidate who would rap about mopeds if given the chance.

Ben Carson / Wu-Tang Clan


According to Carson, he was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He also beat the Russians into space and punched Godzilla back into the Pacific with his bare hands. Wu-Tang!

Welcome to High Parkdale

Today marks the release of the first of what I hope will be many journeys into the world of High Parkdale. This animated series has been in one stage of development or another for the better part of a decade, and it’s thrilling to finally have something to show for all those times people looked at me funny when I told them some friends and I were making a cartoon.

“Vintage Yard Sale” is a short scene with a limited scope and some rough edges, but it works as an introduction to these characters and their world. From the YouTube description:

Harry, Hamza, Elmore and Benny try to raise money by having a yard sale in their gentrified neighbourhood. Harry takes issue with the sale’s location and insists on using the proceeds for something responsible, but Hamza has his mind set on swindling neighbourhood newcomers out of enough money to purchase some brand-name accessories.

5 Hilarious Logos That Prove ECHL Teams Give No Fucks

The ECHL is the third tier of professional hockey in North America. It’s basically one step above that beer league at your local arena and franchises move or fold so often that one somehow ended up in Alaska despite the first two letters of the league’s acronym standing for “East Coast.” The loose, low-stakes nature of the ECHL is evident in everything from its pre-game ceremonies to these five team logos, which show how hilarious hockey teams can be when they give no fucks:

Evansville Icemen


This guy is stuck somewhere between a villain from that ‘90s Batman cartoon and a Wampa. If you thought hockey equipment smelled bad under a jersey, you definitely don’t want to get a whiff of the inside of that parka.

Florida Everblades


I think the alligator is supposed to double as a skate boot, which would be difficult to pull off, as anyone with experience wearing alligators will tell you.

Greenville Swamp Rabbits


The alternate version of this logo looks like Bugs Bunny’s half-brother Brett, who found his calling in competitive sports instead of smooth talking and carrot thieving. And I have no idea what’s going on with his stick.

Missouri Mavericks


This is all wrong. Why is the Disney horse so upset? And who thought it would be a good idea to give it skates and a stick? Horses + ice = bad news. It’s basic math, Missouri.

Orlando Solar Bears


Global warming never seemed so cool, even if the energy requirement for making ice in Orlando is part of the problem. At least now we know where the Coca-Cola bear spends his offseason.

The 10 Best Blockbusters of 2015

2015 was a banner year for blockbusters. Hollywood set new records at the box office by topping $11 billion domestically, and although that hasn’t stopped some executives from crying about piracy, it’s safe to say the film industry is alive and well thanks to a glut of engaging, enjoyable big-budget entertainment to go along with all the other crap that gets churned out every year.

Here are 10 of the year’s best films that grossed at least $100 million domestically:

10 – Furious 7


The Fast and/or Furious franchise may be guilty of cynically hopping on the superhero franchise money train by turning its motley crew of underground street racers into globetrotting secret agents who save the world from behind their steering wheels, but it was ahead of the curve on the globetrotting part. The latest – and most ridiculous – installment owns one of the highest worldwide box office returns of all time because of that foresight, with an assist from Paul Walker’s CGI ghost.

9 – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


In the latest installment of Ethan Hunt’s Crazy Stunts, Tom Cruise: a) rides the side of a plane as it takes off; b) dives inside a water-cooled supercomputer, drowns, is shocked back to life and immediately engages in a high-speed motorcycle chase; c) impersonates the British prime minister; and… d) memorizes a bunch of banking information? Has he finally run out of cool things to do? That’s like disarming a nuclear bomb by smothering it in paperwork.

8 – Jurassic World


I could go on about Chris Pratt’s expertise in the field of Velociraptor whispering or Bryce Dallas Howard’s high-heel marathon training, but I’d rather brainstorm new names for super-dinosaur Indominus Rex:
-Ultra Roidraptor
-Modified Death Lizard 4.0
-Not Quite Godzilla
-Ol’ Sniffer
-Mecha Streisand

7 – Straight Outta Compton


It is a testament to how far western society has come that the remaining members of N.W.A. – a group of gangster rappers from Compton who were once on an FBI watchlist because of their music – are able to become movie stars and media moguls and return to their story two decades later to Hollywood-ize it into a hit film where women are mistreated and marginalized in service of noble male protagonists. And goddamn did they have a good time doing it!

6 – Ant-Man


Turns out a cutesy high-tech caper flick about a guy who shrinks and controls ants was just what Marvel needed to wash the antiseptic taste of Age of Ultron out of their cinematic universe ahead of the next tier or phase or whatever they’re calling it. There are hints of Edgar Wright’s visual style all over this origin story, making it difficult not to wonder how great things could have been, but settling for Michael Pena’s non-sequitur flashbacks and Paul Rudd’s “aw shucks I’m a superhero” routine is enough of a refresher in Marvel’s never-ending narrative clusterfuck.

5 – Inside Out


Pixar didn’t release a film in 2014, ending an eight-year streak, and three of its last four releases before Inside Out were sequels. Under these circumstances, basing your next tentpole kid’s film around the idea of accepting sadness as part of who we are seems like committing box office seppuku. Except it wasn’t. Family audiences were ready to feel all the feels in 2015, and now a generation will grow up believing there’s a tiny, raging Lewis Black inside all of us.

4 – Creed


The 21st century wasn’t asking for a Rocky reboot – or boxing films in general, for that matter – but nothing about Creed feels dated. Michael B Jordan’s titular son-of-Creed dates Philadelphia’s answer to FKA Twigs and Sylvester Stallone’s meal-mouthed pugilist seems charmingly confused by things like smartphones and “the cloud,” letting us know that yes, it is 2015 and hey, there are dirt bikes for some reason.

3 – The Martian


Calling The Martian “The Revenant in space” isn’t accurate, but I’m going to do it anyway because Matt Damon kind of resembles Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass after he’s been stranded on Mars for a couple years and ketchup is but a distant memory. The mood is surprisingly upbeat for a film about someone left for dead millions of miles from Earth, with plenty of jokes both intentional (Damon’s snarky commentary about the red planet and disco music) and unintentional (the depiction of NASA as a functional bureaucracy that has the public’s attention, trust, and money).

2 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Look, Episode VII is basically “A New New Hope” overflowing with nostalgic nods to the magic of the original trilogy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite all the narrative shortcuts, J.J. Abrams’ fanservice realigned the franchise with the traits that made it great, which was necessary following decades of missteps by George Lucas. Some people criticize the film for not exploring the galaxy’s post-Empire political situation in more detail, I suppose because all the trade-embargo-based drama had them on the edge of their seats during the prequels.

1 – Mad Max: Fury Road


The most amazing part about Fury Road isn’t that a 70-year-old director crafted 2 hours of post-apocalyptic vehicular insanity fresher than most action films made by people half his age. It isn’t the car stunt choreography that makes Furious 7 look like security footage from a parking lot. It isn’t even the dude playing a double-neck fire-spewing guitar while bungee-strapped to a massive speaker array. It’s how all of this insanity is part of a film about smashing the patriarchy, which is about as subversive as a blockbuster filled with explosions and testosterone can be.