(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Jeremy LaLonde, Writ. Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall
Starring: Aaron Abrams, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Kristian Bruun, James Cade, Christine Horne
People say Canadians are nice, but I say fuck that nonsense.
We’re not “nice.” We’re just nicer than people from the USA are, and they aren’t very nice to begin with. Like, really—have you ever been to Toronto? It’s colder than an outhouse in Whitehorse!
(UK/Ireland/USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Writ. Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn
|Rachel Wesiz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite|
Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos / Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Favourite is a saucy delight. Buoyed by a trio of courtly wenches in award-calibre performances, this spirited portrait of the affairs of Queen Anne in 1700ish Britain is a darkly funny romp. It’s the cleverest take on All About Eve since Working Girl as social climbing strumpet Abigail (Emma Stone) seeks to dethrone her cousin, Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Malborough (Rachel Weisz) as the Queen’s BFF. Both ladies cozy up to Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and assure her that she’s the bee’s knees when all evidence points to the contrary. These mean girls have cruel intentions.
|A Star is Born- if there was ever a "Globes movie", this is it!|
I completely forgot that the Golden Globe nominations come out this week so here’s a quick crack at them along with updated Oscar predictions. I’ve had a chance to see nearly all the contenders so far with Vice, Mary Poppins Returns, and Ben is Back rounding out screenings before the end of the week and the upcoming TFCA vote, so I’ve been a bit busy…stay tuned for reviews of The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots, On the Basis of Sex, Stan & Ollie, Vox Lux and more!
|Patrick J. Adams and Troian Bellisario star in Akash Sherman's Clara|
Courtesy D Films
The Drawer Boy
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Arturo Pérez Torres, Aviva Armour-Ostroff; Writ. Michael Healey, Arturo Pérez Torres
Starring: Richard Clarkin, Stuart Hughes, Jakob Ehman
The Drawer Boy is a contemporary classic of Canadian theatre and the film adaptation could enjoy similar esteem. This stage-to-screen take on Michael Healey’s acclaimed play is a refreshingly vibrant drama. Some audiences might find the adaptation a bit too talky and a bit too stagey, but stick with it. The Drawer Boy is a sparse, small-scale affair smartly told that takes the bare essences of good filmmaking—a good story, strong actors, and a sense of cinematic space—and bundles them together like a sturdy bale of wheat. It’s nice to have a Canadian film to get excited about again.
At Eternity’s Gate
(USA/France/Switzerland, 110 min.)
Dir. Julian Schnabel, Writ. Jean-Claude Carrière, Louise Kugelberg, Julian Schnabel
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Emmanuelle Seigner, Mads Mikkelsen
Julian Schnabel is a master of visual poetry. The Oscar-nominated director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly returns with another original and impeccably realized dive into the artistic process. Schnabel, a painter as well as a filmmaker, daubs a canvas of dreams and madness while bringing to the screen the brilliant yet troubled mind of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, played masterfully by Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). The film is not a cradle to grave biography of the artist who is as famous for his Starry Night painting as he is for cutting off his ear. Instead, it’s an impressionistic interpretation of a genius both fuelled and plagued by demons. At Eternity’s Gate feels the evocative portrait Van Gogh would have wanted.
A Private War
(USA/UK, 110 min.)
Dir. Matthew Heineman, Writ. Arash Amel
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci
There is a war going on. It doesn’t have bullets. It doesn’t have bombs. It doesn’t have drones. Instead, this war is one of words, access, and angles.
(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Karl R. Hearne
Starring: Hugh Thompson, Lola Flanery, John MacLaren
(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Karl R. Hearne
Starring: Hugh Thompson, Lola Flanery, John MacLaren
I Am Not a Witch
(UK/France, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Rungano Nyoni
Starring: Margaret Mulubwa, Henry Phir,
The inciting event of I am not a Witch could easily be a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A woman fetches a bucket of water and drops it when she encounters a young girl on the path home. Her explanation for being startled? The little kid’s a witch.
(USA, 114 min.)
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Joe Alwyn, Troye Sivan
There’s a moment in Boy Erased in which Nicole Kidman brought the house down at the Princess of Wales Theatre when the film premiered at TIFF earlier this fall. Kidman’s character Nancy rescues her son, Jared (Lucas Hedges), from a gay conversion therapy camp that she’d enlisted him in with hopes to straighten him out. As they escape, the camp’s leader and self-certified “therapist” (Joel Edgerton) comes running after them, convincing them to stop and correct their sins. Nancy, a devout Baptist, realizes that she can reconcile her faith with her love for her son. Nancy turns protectively and fiercely admonishes her foe with the sassiest “Shame on you!” decreed in cinema. The line comes straight from the heart as love gives Nancy a reality check and Boy Erased provides a pure, heart-breaking portrait of the bond between parents and their children.
(Bulgaria, 120 min.)
Written and directed by Ilian Djevelekov
Starring: Velislav Pavlov, Teodora Duhovnikova, Vesela Babinova, Anastassia Liutova, Mihail Mutafov
How many cameras does a person walk by every day? The fear of Big Brother watching over us is a reality that people take for granted. Government spying might be one thing, since they can only monitor so many people, but the threat of surveillance is everywhere, as are the inherent elements of power and control that come with the information gleaned by the voyeur. Omnipresent, the opening night film of Toronto’s European Union Film Festival and Bulgaria’s official entry in this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, explores the destructive role of the panopticon as one man takes the all-seeing eye of the camera too far. It’s a chilling morality play on the power of media.
(South Korea, 148 min.)
Dir. Lee Chang-dong, Writ. Lee Chang-dong, Jungmi Oh
Starring: Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jeon
Burning is a slow and difficult film. South Korea's Oscar bid is lethargic even by the standard with which one approaches a film by auteur Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine, Poetry). Lee has mastered the art of slow cinema, rarely making a movie that clocks in under two hours and twenty minutes, so what Burning lacks in immediate payoff it enjoys in long-term gain. See it in a theatre and leave your phone behind—or, if watching Burning at home, turn the phone off, remove the battery, and leave both parts in different rooms. This is the kind of movie from which one can easily be distracted, since the action happens almost imperceptibly in Lee’s carefully measured frames. Miss not a beat, lest ye be lost forever. The film is a slow burn with a sting that creeps up a day later.
(Italy/USA, 152 min.)
Dir. Luca Guadagnino, Writ. David Kajganich
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloë Moretz, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Jessica Harper
“It’s time to break the noses of all beautiful things,” declares Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) to Susie (Dakota Johnson) during a devilish dance in Suspiria. There are many broken bones and bloodied beauties in Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeously macabre Suspiria, and many a horror fan is bound to be tickled pink by the cries of pain and pleasure that echo throughout the film. One major difference between this Suspiria and the 1977 Dario Argento original is the sheer amount of dancing as sequences punctuate the film with violent, staccato rhythms. Both films take place in a dance studio/coven in divided Berlin, but the dancing in the classic is almost incidental whereas the stylish moves of the new film are essential to the spell it casts. This wild dance party is even better than the original Suspiria.
(USA, 84 min.)
Written and directed by Jonah Hill
Starring: Sunny Suljic, Na-Kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston
Bradley Cooper isn’t the only actor who can direct! Superbad and Wolf of Wall Street star Jonah Hill makes a respectable feature debut as a director with Mid90s. While Mid90s isn’t the out of the park grand slam of Cooper’s A Star is Born, complete with fireworks and somersaulting cheerleaders, Hill’s flick bats a solid triple and lands a hot dog on the side. Hill crafts a goofy, tough, and surprisingly sweet coming of age story in Mid90s.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
(USA, 106 min.)
Dir. Marielle Heller, Writ. Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant
Lee Israel is pathetic. When we meet the writer circa 1991, she’s a 51-year-old has been, clinging to her fifteen minutes of fame while churning out entry level work during the graveyard shift. Israel achieved some measure of repute thanks to her literary biographies on Tallulah Bankhead, Estée Lauder, and reporter/game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, the latter of which was a New York Times bestseller. Israel thinks this modest success entitles her to more out of life, but as a bitterly depressed and resentful alcoholic, she squanders her talent far more than she uses it.
Room for Rent
(Canada, 89 min.)
Written and directed by Matthew Atkinson
Starring: Mark Little, Brett Gelman, Mark McKinney, Carla Gallo, Stephnie Weir
Living with random roommates is an experience that everyone should face at least once, if only to appreciate how normal and kind one’s friends and family are. For example, when I moved to Toronto, I answered a Craig’s List ad for a house that was led by someone who seemed perfectly chill and relatable. She turned out to be a batshit crazy hoarder who cleaned the shower for an hour every week (usually at midnight) and ran an amateur massage studio out of our messy living room—an expected everybody to vamoosh when her clients arrived. Not the most pleasant year, but it gave some perspective.
|Clockwise: Roma, The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born, First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk|
(USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Felix van Groeningen, Writ. Luke Davies, Felix van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever
Steve Carell wants an Oscar. Timothée Chalamet deserves one.
(Canada, 89 min.)
Dir. Michael Peterson, Writ. Michael Peterson, Kevin Cockle
Starring: Luca Villacis, Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers, Kathleen Munroe, Chenier Mundal
The appeal of children generally eludes me, but the little hellions seem to be awfully good tools to have whilst trapped in a creepy home with a maniac. Video games and movies have taught kids to be resourceful, and as the new horror-comedy Knuckleball shows, there’s at least one practical benefit to having children. Kids slay the darnedest things—at least they’re good for something.
(USA, 142 min.)
Dir. Damien Chazelle, Writ. Josh Singer
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Patrick Fugit, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton
Neil Armstrong might have been the first man to walk on the moon, but we’ll all feel like we’ve been there after seeing First Man. La La Land director Damien Chazelle takes audiences to the moon with such heart-pounding skill that one could swear he shot the film in space. This technically accomplished achievement chronicles the landmark Space Race that culminated with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon with Armstrong (played by La La Land leading man Ryan Gosling) taking a major leap for all of humanity.
(Sweden/UK/USA, 100 min.)
Dir. Björn Runge, Writ. Jane Anderson
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Annie Stark, Harry Lloyd
It’s hard to imagine a better showcase for Glenn Close’s talents than The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages, but The Wife might be the finest example of her strength as an actress. That might be the case because The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages are all great pieces of film and television. The Wife, unfortunately, is not a good film, but Glenn Close is great in it. She’s reason alone to see the film as she elevates every scene in which she appears with subdued, repressed rage. Close’s performance in The Wife is a masterclass in subtle, nuanced acting.
Chien de garde (Family First)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Sophie Dupuis
Starring: Jean-Simon Leduc, Théodore Pellerin, Maude Guérin, Paul Ahmarani
Telefilm Canada threw us all for a loop Wednesday when they announced, without the usual warning or fanfare, the completely random selection of Sophie Dupuis’ Chien de garde as our official submission in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a random choice because Chien de garde marks the first time in a very long while that the pan-Canadian committee has put forward a film that had virtually no boost, platform, or exposure outside of Quebec. The film, which opened theatrically in La Belle Province in March and was dumped unceremoniously onto VOD for the rest of Canada sometime between then and now, actually drew some stellar reviews and garnered three of Quebec’s Iris Awards in the categories of Best Actress (Maude Guérin), Best Film Editing, and Best Breakthrough Performer. (The film has a full-throttle performance by Théodore Pellerin).
|Destroyer, Blind Spot, Birds of Passage, A Star is Born, Roma, and Hotel Mumbai were some of TIFF's best|
That’s a wrap for another year at the Toronto International Film Festival! TIFF had its best and arguably most exhausting year yet in 2018. There were some great movies and moments of TIFF, but the highlight might have been the Saturday of the first weekend when I came home and stress ate an entire bag of Kettle Chips with a bottle of prosecco. After spending nearly the entire day on email coordinating or conducting interviews that consumed the first few days of TIFF, it was a great way to unwind after missing several movies. Check out more coverage at POV and stay tuned to BeatRoute for the work fuelled by greasy chips and bubbly.
|Sarah Gadon in Paseo|
Courtesy of TIFF
Director Matthew Hannam describes having an a-ha moment one day in Barcelona. While other tourists were taking photos and selfies, a picture formed in his mind. “The fucked up part is that most people aren't there, they're just trying to get enough pictures to prove that they were,” says Hannam. “At a certain point you don't even know where you are.”
(Netherland/Belgium, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Esther Rots
Starring: Circé Lethem, Lien Wildemeersch (Miller, Lee), Martijn van der Veen (Simon)
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Audiences seeking a healthy dose of WTF needn’t look any further than Retrospekt. This Dutch oddity is a true original. One might classify it as the first arthouse domestic violence musical, but that doesn’t really fit the bill since nobody belts a tune onscreen in Retrospekt even though the soundtrack is layered with peculiar original songs that twist the story in myriad ways. It might sound disrespectful; it might sound stupid; it might sound awful, yet Retrospekt somehow works thanks to the fearless audacity with which writer/director Esther Rots pulls it off.
The Fall of the American Empire (La chute de l'empire américain)
Written and directed by Denys Arcand
Starring: Aléxandre Landry, Maripier Morin, Rémy Girard, Louis Morissette, Maxim Roy, Pierre Curzi, Vincent Leclerc
Programme: Special Presentations (Toronto Premiere)
Denys Arcand is back with a vengeance! The Quebecois master returns with The Fall of the American Empire, a Robin Hood fable for the Trump era that resonates strongly with the anxieties, tensions, and unrest of the time. It's a perceptive punch in the face to capitalism and a damning satire of these days of darkness.
Angel (Un ange)
(Belgium/Netherlands/Senegal, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Koen Mortier
Starring: Vincent Rottiers, Fatou N’Diaye
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (International Premiere)
Twelve years ago, Fatou N’Diaye gave a heartbreaking performance as Gentille, a young Rwandan waitress at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Robert Favreau’s drama A Sunday in Kigali. Audiences who saw this touching story of the 1994 Rwanda genocide at TIFF 2006 (or in release later) will recall N’Diaye’s touching innocence as the better half of A Sunday in Kigali’s love story about a Hutu waitress and a Canadian journalist who fell in love in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cut to TIFF’18 and N’Diaye is the star attraction of another ill-fated love story, and she steals the film as Fae, a doe-eyed prostitute in Senegal who strikes the fancy of a Belgian cyclist named Thierry (Vincent Rottiers). Viewers who slept on her performance in A Sunday in Kigali won’t want to close their eyes this time around.
(France, 96 minutes - about half of which are just insufferable)
Dir. Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile
Programme: Midnight Madness (North American premiere)
Master provocateur Gaspar Noé has well earned his status as a love-him-or-hate-him director. He wears his notoriety like a badge of honour after 2002’s Irréversible polarized cinephiles with its real-time rape scene, 2009’s Enter the Void had folks laughing in the aisles with a grand finale that imagined conception seen from the inside of a character’s cervix, and 2015’s 3D sexapalooza Love shot a bit too much pleasure in audiences’ faces. Noé’s latest romp Climax is arguably his best film—if only because it isn’t complete trash.
(Canada/USA, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam Stern
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Lexy Kolker, Bruce Dern
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
|Courtesy of TIFF|
Room meets X-Men in the tense sci-fi family drama Freaks. This feature collaboration from Vancouver-born directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein is a smart exercise in small-scale science fiction. Freaks takes a simple conceit, namely that an unnamed father (Emile Hirsch) shelters his daughter, Chloe (Lexy Kolker), from the outside world. Chloe has never left their house. Her dad knows that she is unwelcome in the world because, like him, Chloe has unique powers. The outside world is not a friendly place—and it’s uncomfortably familiar to the world we live in today with its hostility to outsiders and fear of difference.
(Norway/Sweden, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Camilla Strøm Henriksen
Starring: Yiva Thedia Bjørkaas, Maria Bonnevie, Sverrir Gudnason, Casper Falck-Løvås
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
A phoenix is a symbol of renewal and resilience. The mythical bird rises from ashes to be born again, and its flame-lit image suggests light after darkness. There is little to lightness to be found in Camilla Strøm Henriksen’s feature directorial debut Phoenix, though, but after nearly an hour and a half of sombre melancholy, one can only leave the film with a sense of hope for its young protagonist.
Blind Spot (Blindsone)
(Norway, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Tuva Novotny
Starring: Pia Tjelta, Nora Mathea Øien, Oddgeir Thune, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Programme: Discovery (International Premiere)
The power of the long take finds one of its best examples in Blind Spot. This outstanding Norwegian drama from actor-turned-director Tuva Novotny gives Birdman and Victoria a run for their money as the one-take wonder. A single 98-minute unbroken shot provides one of the most emotionally absorbing case studies in family dynamics and mental illness one could see at the festival this year. (TIFF’s programme guide incorrectly notes that Blind Spot is a series of long takes. The film doesn’t even credit an editor.) Even more impressive is the fact that Blind Spot marks Novotny’s first feature as a director, so the sheer difficulty of orchestrating all this camerawork and human drama into one perfect shot only makes the coup more noteworthy. Blind Spot is an outstanding technical and artistic achievement
Float Like a Butterfly
(Ireland, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Carmel Winters
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Johnny Collins, Hilda Foy
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
TIFF throws a crowd-pleasing punch in its line-up of girl power. Audiences willing to overlook the many boxing movie clichés in Float Like a Butterfly may find an empowering tale of a young girl’s fight for freedom. Whatever its shortcomings, Float Like a Butterfly has a lot to admire in the representational aspects, which inevitably tipped the crowd in its favour.
(India, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Nandita Das
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin
Programme: Special Presentations (North American Premiere)
Great voices in literature often reveal truths the public doesn’t want to hear. Particularly in times of social change and political uncertainty, the pen is the mightiest tool to give voice to the disenfranchised. Writer/director Nandita Das provides a biographical rendering of Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto with a stark and sobering eye for the late writer’s significance in capturing the social inequities of Partition-era India and Pakistan. Manto is a thoughtful biopic that honours the writer’s courage and his ability to capture the cultural pulse with a voice ahead of its time.
|The Stone Speakers|
Courtesy Time Lapse Pictures
(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Aidan Shipley, Grayson Moore; Writ. Grayson Moore
Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Noah Reid, Katie Boland, Grace Glowicki, Peter MacNeill, Peter Spence
Sheila McCarthy gives the performance of her career in Cardinals. Is this really the same woman who was so effervescent and full of life in I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing? If McCarthy made audiences soar with Mermaids, she lets them feel the sharp pain of hitting rock bottom in Cardinals. Playing Valerie Walker, a suburban mother who returns home from prison after serving time for killing her neighbour in an alleged drunk driving incident, her subdued performance is a master class in restraint. I am in awe of her intensity and focus.
(Australia, 115 min.)
Dir. Simon Baker, Writ. Gerard Lee, Simon Baker, Tim Winton
Starring: Samson Coulter, Ben Spence, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh
Adolescence feels a lot like being underwater. It has a certain murkiness and it takes a lot of feeling one’s way around to find direction. Add the feeling that time works against you while struggling to navigate this uncharted territory: there’s only so long before going up for air. This sense of suffocation, of life closing in on you the deeper you get, becomes more turbulent as the waves crash down and send you tumbling.
Never Saw It Coming
(Canada, 83 min.)
Dir. Gail Harvey, Writ. Linwood Barclay
Starring: Emily Hampshire, Eric Roberts, Tamara Podemski, Shaun Benson, Katie Boland, Nick Serino
Keisha Ceylon is a small town charlatan. She moonlights as a psychic, helping families of the small snowy town of Sorrow Bay find their missing loved ones, but only after she gets their cash. Five grand nets a few easily plucked clues and everyone generally leaves the transaction happy.
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Peter Berg; Writ. Lea Carpenter, Graham Roland (story)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iwo Uwais, Rhonda Rousey, Peter Berg
Mile 22 opens with a bang and doesn’t let up. Mark Wahlberg and company deliver high octane, heavy calibre entertainment playing a group of covert operatives on a dangerous mission to transport and protect a key witness. Mile 22 is a slick, swift, and energetic thrill ride. It is also relentlessly, savagely, and exhaustingly violent. The flick’s going to please its target audience, but I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of movie anymore.
|Daveed Diggs (right) stars in Blindspotting with Rafael Casal|
New interview! Pick up a copy of BeatRoute if you’re in the Vancouver area this month to read a funchat with Daveed Diggs, the star and co-writer of the new urban drama Blindspotting. Diggs, who won a Tony and a Grammy for his work in the Broadway game-changer Hamilton, stars as Collin, an Oakland native who returns emerges from prison to see his city transformed in a state of rapid gentrification. It’s an urgent film, as Collin witnesses a police shooting of an unarmed Black man and navigates the deeply entrenched systems of inequality while trying to find middle ground between justice for his fallen brother and safety for his own life. With the beat of the city and the pulse of true poetry, Blindspotting is not to be missed.
|Jacob Tremblay in Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan Courtesy of TIFF|
I tip my hat to Xavier Dolan! The Québécois wunderkind stole the TIFF Canadian press conference two years in a row with the same movie. TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey pulled a rabbit out of his hat by making the surprise announcement that Dolan’s long-awaited English-language debut The Death and Life of John F. Donovan would World Premiere as a Special Presentation. The news was confirmed by the festival press office via a release sent immediately following the announcement.
|Bruce Sweeney's Kingsway is among the notable Canadian premieres|
The TIFF Canadian line-up is and it’s…a bit underwhelming. There’s some good stuff, to be sure, like the documentaries including the World Premieres of Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater: Extinction and Igor Drljaca’s The Stone Speakers. (Readmore about the docs at POV.) But, beyond those titles, TIFF might have been smart to reserve some of the four Canadian films announced last week, like Patricia Rozema’s Moutpiece and Don McKellar’s Through Black Spruce for today. They’re doing the media line, anyways, and are bound to dominate the coverage.
Shock and Awe
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Rob Reiner, Writ. Joey Hartstone
Starring: Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Rob Reiner, Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich, Luke Tennie
Rob Reiner really should have worn a caftan during his rousing “yay, journalism!” moment in Shock and Awe. The director and star of Shock and Awe has a big golden muumuu to fill coming to theatres on the heels of The Post. Reiner simply proves that when it comes to acting, he’s no Meryl Streep and when it comes to directing, he’s no Steven Spielberg.
The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger
(Canada, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Katherine Schlemmer
Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward
This week’s quirky microbudget Canadian dramedy opening at the Carlton is The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. Not to be confused with Xavier Dolan’s always-in-the-works The Death and Life of John F. Donovan starring Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman,
Jessica Chastain, and Susan
Sarandon, this offbeat little oddity is as far away from the visual panache of
the Dolan world as one can get. Writer/director Katherine Schlemmer
concentrates on the characters and “what if” scenarios of connection and chance
that her slightly speculative film develops. Most of the budget probably went
to catering, but to Naardlinger’s
credit, this is a rare Canadian film in which the actors actually eat their spring
mix instead of just pushing it around their plates.
Where is Kyra?
(USA, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland
“I’m no spring chicken!” quips Kyra late in this film. She struggles to get work two years after losing her job, at which she was supposedly quite successful, and now she toils the demoralizing grind of unemployment. Few people, unfortunately, want an overqualified woman with wrinkles on the payroll. Pfeiffer dives deeply into this character study that demands every inch of her maturity as an actress. It’s a quietly powerful and immersive performance—one of Pfeiffer’s most surprisingly turns and arguably one of her strongest.
|Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Isle of Dogs, Fake Tattoos, Meditation Park, American Animals, |
and Sweet Country rank as some of the year's best films so far.
2018 slept in, but what started as a slow year for movies has become a strong one. I’ll admit that I’m still not covering as many films as I’d like to here, but there are a lot of films worth championing that I’ve let slip through the cracks and want to take the time to spotlight.
|Aden Young in The Unseen and Oluniké Adeliyi in Darken|
Canadians make a lot of special effects driven movies, but they’re often for Hollywood producers. Genre films made with Canadian dollar aren’t particularly rare, either, but good ones often are. The works of David Cronenberg, Splice, Enemy, Pontypool, and most recently Les affamés, which must be the contemporary hallmark for great Canadian horror, are standouts. These titles are arguably auteur-driven films rather than genre pieces, and few of the films in between aren’t memorable. But they shouldn’t be the exception to the rule.
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
(Indonesia/Malaysia/France, 93 min.)
Dir. Mouly Surya; Writ. Mouly Surya, Garin Nugroho, Rama Adi
Starring: Marsha Timothy, Egy Fedly, Dea Panendra
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. A tepid lunch honestly doesn’t benefit anyone and revenge, like cooking, is best served piping hot with fiery gusto. That’s how Marlina cooks up a four-course meal of wrathful revenge. Let the last meal for any man who wrongs her be a heaping portion of incendiary, tongue-burning rage.
The Imposter has to be one of the wildest films I've seen at Hot Docs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Layton for the Toronto Film Critics Association and we chatted about hybrids, heist films, and going beyond the sentimental cheap shot of "true" stories.
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Rebecca Addelman
Starring: Eve Hewson, Avan Jogia, Andie MacDowell, Hamish Linklater, Grace Glowicki
The traditional gift for one’s first anniversary is paper. Maybe a card, a certificate, or a photograph might find its way into some wrappings as newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage. Franny (Eve Hewson, Enough Said) and Dan (Avan Jogia, Ghost Wars) gift themselves an ironic piece of paper when Paper Year takes stock at their first year of marriage. This dramedy from Ottawa-born filmmaker Rebecca Addelman illustrates with bittersweet humour how the best gifts are often paper—and by that, I mean receipts.