♦ The toast of Toronto’s film industry this past year has definitely been visual effects studio Mr X, thanks to their outstanding work on several high-profile productions that passed through the GTA in 2017. Long considered a cutting-edge leader in their field, Mr X netted a total of six major award nominations this year for their contribution to such works as Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Starz’ American Gods, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful and History’s Vikings. The studio also worked on some of the year’s most talked-about films, like Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! and Aaron Sorkin’s recent directorial debut Molly’s Game. Upcoming and ongoing projects are kept tightly under wraps, but look out for a touch of Mr X magic on the upcoming sophomore season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, streaming on Netflix Canada March 30.
♦ The Toronto Film Critics Association turns 21 this year, and what better way to celebrate a milestone birthday than with a glitzy gala? The TFCA’s Annual Awards Gala, taking place the evening of January 9 at The Carlu, will be hosted this year by TIFF’s artistic director, Cameron Bailey. While most of the evening’s winners were announced in advance in early December, the race for the Rogers Best Canadian Film of the Year award is still down to three nominees: Kevan Funk (Hello Destroyer), Joyce Wong (Wexford Plaza) and Ashley McKenzie (Werewolf). The winner will net the biggest cash prize available exclusively to Canadian filmmakers — a handsome $100,000 — and pretty decent bragging rights, too. Last year’s champion, Hugh Gibson (The Stairs), pulled a classic Canadian act of kindness and shared his prize with the two runners up!
♦ Four prominent members of the Soulpepper Theatre Company handed in their resignation this week in a show of solidarity for four actresses who separately filed civil lawsuits accusing Soulpepper’s founding artistic director Albert Schultz of several instances of sexual misconduct and harassment over a period of 13 years. Founding members Ted Dykstra and Stuart Hughes, along with longtime actors Michelle Monteith and Rick Roberts, released a joint statement Thursday confirming their departure from the company and reaffirming their support for the four women involved. Schultz, who has taken a leave of absence pending further investigation, also released a statement this week expressing his intent to “vehemently defend” himself against the serious allegations. Although Alan Dilworth has been named acting artistic director in the meantime, the four resignees are firm that they will not return to Soulpepper until Schultz no longer has any role within the company.
♦ An independently-financed animated short by a Toronto filmmaker is in the running for a coveted Academy Award nomination. Robin Joseph’s Fox And The Whale is a visually breathtaking journey through ethereal landscapes, inspired by Canadian wilderness (specifically, Salt Spring Island in British Columbia). The 12-minute film was created in Joseph’s own home studio by a tiny team of five (including his girlfriend, Kim Leow) on a micro-budget made up entirely of his own personal savings. The result? An astounding piece of motion picture art that speaks to the soul without the use of any dialogue. The nine other films competing with Fox And The Whale for the Oscar nomination will be narrowed down to five official nominees, to be announced on January 23, 2018.