New films bring harrowing drama, amiable humor or incoherent posturing

Also hope for the future with some teenage scientists in a world-class competition

The awards season comes into final focus Tuesday when the Academy Award nominations are announced. We’ll see if the success Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book had at the Golden Globes will carry over, if A Star is Born can gain back the status it couldn’t sustain there and if Lady Gaga can top Glenn Close for best acting.

Locally, I’ll be watching if Animal Behaviour, that nifty animated short, can stay in the running. The creators, Alison Snowden and David Fine, the husband-and-wife team who work here, won an Oscar for a previous film back in 1994.

And I definitely expect there’ll be a nomination for the top film I review today. Roma may lead, but Capernaum deserves to be there too.

Here’s the list:

Capernaum:  4 ½ stars

Stand & Ollie:  3 ½

Glass:  2

Science fair:  3 ½


CAPERNAUM: The curt official plot summary doesn’t do this film justice. A boy in Beirut sues his parents because he didn’t want to be born. It sounds gimmicky, but that’s merely a wrap-around story. The heart of this film is what happens behind it and it is gut-wrenching. It’s one of the most powerful films you’ll ever see. A big winner at Cannes and Lebanon’s submission to the Academy Awards, it’s especially resonant when you think of the various refugee and migrant dramas in the news these days.


Zain, played with perfect naturalism by Al Rafeea Zain, is maybe 12 years old. Nobody knows exactly and since his parents are undocumented immigrants there are no papers. He runs away from home after his parents sell his sister to their landlord, meets another “illegal” working at an amusement park and takes a job caring for her child. (That baby is a fantastic actor). The mood darkens as more and more complications arrive. A corrupt merchant wants the baby. The mother can’t afford to buy identity papers and is arrested. Zain doesn’t know that and goes looking for her, pulling the baby along on a skateboard that he stole. The title translates as “chaos,” a pretty good label for the life this film depicts among the poor and unwanted. It’ll bring tears but because of the wonderful acting by the mostly amateur cast is compelling to watch. The director, Nadine Labaki, knows her  material. She’s Lebanese, lived through the civil war there and also spent a few years in Montreal where she became a Canadian citizen. (5th Avenue) 4 ½  out of 5 

STAN & OLLIE: Laurel and Hardy. I used to love watching their movies on TV. Their gentle humor was truly funny. They were Hollywood’s top comedy team in the 1930s but do many people remember them today? That’s the central question with this film. Is there are audience for it and do enough people care about their work after their heyday had long passed? I hope so because John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan revive them perfectly with their performances. I was most worried about whether Reilly could look anything like the puffy Oliver Hardy. He does. The makeup people have done a great job.

More in New Movies

Two good kids films (though one is better for adults) and then rampant juvenilia with Hellboy

And more: the real Mary Magdalene story; the origin of Stockholm syndrome and a growing young again fantasy called Little. (Plus, three also rans).

Super hero fun, a not so good Stephen King adaptation and a daffy Ronaldo clone

And more: a guitar maker keeps the old ways, a banned Iranian filmmaker carries on, pre-World War I tremors in Europe, the underclass in Brazil and thoughts on fidelity in Toronto

Notes on the revised Dumbo; some worthy Canadian films and hot fun with McConaughey in Florida

And more: a glorious stroll through New York, ghosts in Quebec, indigenous struggle in Ontario and taming horses and yourself in a Nevada prison
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