TIFF 2017: One of Us (2017, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)

Categories: 2017 and Movies.

I have seen a few Ewing-Grady documentaries so far and I have always found they tackle fascinating subjects but I have never loved the way in which they tackle them. Though I appreciate their attempts at breaking outside of documentary norms and customs (to a degree) I also sometimes find their attempts to do so a little too flashy, for lack of a better word. (What I am trying to say is that I find that their style often calls attention to itself, which is not always something I like in documentaries.) One of Us definitely contains stylistic flashes that call Read More

TIFF 2017 Racer and the Jailbird (2017, Michaël R. Roskam)

Categories: 2017 and Movies.

This is an entertaining, albeit slight, amalgam of the bank heist genre with one of those romances where the two alpha leads, who do risky things in their professional lives, fall in love with each other, but which is pretty much entirely ruined by an absolutely bonkers left turn (well, a series of left turns) into Crazy with a capital C. MASSIVE SPOILERS! Read More

Tiff 2017: The Death of Stalin (2017, Armando Iannucci)

Categories: 2017 and Movies.

Iannucci’s new film is, as I understand it, a bit of a left turn for him: it’s an adaptation of a graphic novel based upon the real event of the title. Though I had no such fears, one could be understandably trepidacious about Iannucci turning his satirical eye to something historically accurate. Read More

TIFF 2016

Categories: 2016, Movies, and Personal.

With the decision not to see the People’s Choice Award today (a musical), I ended up seeing 11 movies this year, a little bit lower than my average. As usual, I saw more good films than bad ones. Somewhat surprising was that there was no clear “great” film – I usually see at least one film that I will consider, in hindsight, to be one of the best movies of a given calendar year. Not this year (I don’t think). Anyway, without further delay, here is what I saw this year: Read More

Mascots (2016, Christopher Guest)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

The decision to see Christopher Guest’s latest at TIFF was one made in ignorance that this is a Netflix film, which will soon be available for streaming. Alas. It’s an amusing film that, as Jenn put it, has no dead air. It’s certainly not Guest’s best – it’s quite slight and the targets of the film are, well, easy – but it’s close to laugh-a-minute and it fulfills most of what we want from a Guest film – quirky, awkward people doing what they love most, in this case, being mascots for very small sports teams. I’d say it’s probably Read More

The Limehouse Golem (2016, Juan Carlos Medina)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is an atmospheric and entertaining period mystery/horror film that struggles with both telling and tone but which is mostly entertaining. My biggest issues were with the time-hoping – there are flashbacks throughout the film and flashbacks within flashbacks, a particular pet peeve of mine – as well as with the tone of the very serious, very procedural mystery versus the campy/darkly comic imaginings of the crimes. They were enjoyable, but they often felt out of place with the rest of the film. SPOILERS Read More

Okafor’s Law (2016, Omoni Oboli)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

For the first two thirds of this film, it is a reasonably amusing Romantic Comedy – not my thing but effective and, for someone like me not familiar with Nollywood, a decent spin on the formula, despite a few sound issues. But the wheels come off in the third act, with not only a few major tonal shifts (and some violence!) but an ending that makes zero sense. Minor SPOILERS! Read More

ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail (2016, Steve James)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This film is about the only bank – the only bank! – to be indicted for mortgage fraud in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It tells the story of a bank in New York City’s Chinatown which detected loan fraud, fired the employee responsible, reported the fraud to their regulator, fired additional employees when more fraud was discovered, and then was prosecuted by the District Attorney of New York City, because some of the fraudulent loans were sold to Fannie Mae, where they made money. Read More

The Unknown Girl (2016, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is one of those European “social realist” dramas that are extremely deliberately paced, feature no score and alienate a lot of North Americans because it feels like “nothing happens.” (Par for the course: there were plenty of walk-outs.) It’s unfortunate that so many of us over here feel like a film about a death could feel like “nothing happens,” but such is the divide between the heavily plotted American films we see all the time, and many smaller European films. Read More

Catfight (2016, Onur Tukel)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

Catfight is a confused, tonally inconsistent film built around the idea of an ongoing feud between two women without weapons. At some level, I guess the premise is interesting, given that these movies nearly almost always feature men (or families, or gangs). But the execution is so inconsistent that it feels as though this was a first feature. (It’s not. Apparently it’s his 8th or something, which is a real shocker.) Here are a few of the issues: The satire, such as it is, is of American society and politics rather than, say, the revenge genre, and it is extremely Read More

TIFF 2015 (1/15)

Categories: 2015.

So this year I attended 14 movies. I thought about going to 15, but I wasn’t that into the Viewer’s Choice movie. I saw what feels like a pretty diverse selection of films this year. I saw 3 American films 1 Argentinian film 1 Austrian film 1 Canadian film 1 Chilean film 1 Egyptian 1 Finnish film 1 Mexican film 1 New Zealand film 1 Polish film 1 Romanian film 1 Russian film. Here are the films in order of best to worst: Anomalisa – the new Charlie Kaufman movie Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier’s new thriller Bleak Street – Read More

The 50 Year Argument (2014, Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Scorsese and Tedeschi’s film about the New York Review of Books is not a documentary about the magazine so much as it is a love letter to it. (To be fair, in the subsequent conversation, Scorsese said he wasn’t interested in “conventional” documentaries – that is documentaries as journalism. Rather he wants to make Cinema.) Also, it is, unsurprisingly, a movie that treats New York as the centre of the universe over the last half century. Both of these things are things I dislike: I dislike such bias and I dislike anything that is overly “New York is the Greatest Read More

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014, Roy Andersson)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is the third of Andersson’s trilogy about “being human” or something like that. I haven’t seen the first. I have seen the second, You, the Living. I feel like Andersson is a “Love him or hate him” director. Having just said that, I didn’t love or hate this movie. I understand why people love him, but having now seen two of his films I feel like if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. His shtick is unique, but it still feels like a shtick to me: odd, exaggerated tableaux – some of which are quite funny – put Read More

En chance til aka a Second Chance (2014, Susanne Bier)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is a difficult film that I had trouble figuring out my thoughts about because of its hopeful and not-so-difficult resolution. Fortunately, the wife and I talked it out and I’ve come around. This is a film about people pushed to emotional extremes by depression, loss addiction and the like and its about the bad decisions that people make when pushed to emotional extremes. But it is also about hope – hence the title. As someone who has always found (Hollywood) films too hopeful, sometimes I have trouble dealing with hope when it is done well, simply because I have Read More

Natural Resistance (2014, Jonathan Nossiter)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mondo Vino and so I guess I was looking for more of the same. Well this is a very different film (as well it should be). Nossiter says he wasn’t intending to make this movie and unfortunately that is all over the finished product: it feels rushed, rough and frankly almost amateurish for someone who has been making movies as long as he has. I get that some of that – perhaps of all of it – is intentional, but it was more than a little jarring. What we get is some really engaging conversation – evidently Read More

Impunity (2014, Jyoti Mistry)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is like the South African, avant garde Badlands. If you like how that sounds, you should check it out. All though kind of hard to fathom in its early scenes, and a little clunky in some of its attempts at Meaning / Symbolism, this film is, on the whole, an effective, if overly arty examination of violence as a social problem in South Africa and, really, in any society with pretenses to being civilized. In certain circumstances, violence can come easy – too easy – for some people and once you’ve done something that society won’t forgive, there’s really Read More

Cut Snake (2014, Tony Ayres)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Cut Snake is an interesting but flawed attempt to update classic Hollywood film noir with more characterizations (for lack of a better word). We’ve got some classic tropes: a mysterious man “without a past” so to speak, a femme fatale (only, in a neat twist, this one’s a man!) and bad decisions. Unfortunately, the film sticks too much to the traditional formula. It would be nice if the ’70s Australian setting and the more modern love triangle were paired with an ending that didn’t reek of White Heat or The Public Enemy. The film is also over-scored and this competes Read More

TIFF 2013 Wrap Up

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This year I managed to see only 10 films. I say ‘only’ because usually I see at least 12 and because next year I would like to say more. Alas. What follows are the ten movies I have seen this year, ranked by how good I thought they were. 1. Blue Ruin, directed by Jeremy Saulnier (9/10) I have always had a thing for revenge movies, but one thing I will give the genre is that it isn’t realistic. Nearly every Hollywood or Asian revenge movie out there features a regular guy who transforms into some kind of hyper-manly Angel Read More

The Police Officer’s Wife (2013, Philip Gronning)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

There are perhaps few movies I have seen more in need of a little common-sense editing than this film. The filmmakers made a bizarre choice which may have made some kind of artistic sense in post-production but which pretty much punishes the audience for watching this film in reality. What is that choice? It will not spoil the movie for you if I tell, it will, however, likely convince you not to see it. This film is separated into 59 chapters. That’s right, 59. Moreover, each chapter’s beginning is announced, as is its end. Now, I don’t want to think Read More

12 Years a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This may seem a weird thing to say but I think this is McQueen’s least difficult material to date. Obviously, slavery is a difficult subject – this is not an easy film to watch – but it is not morally difficult subject, at least for most of us. Hunger may not have been morally difficult for anyone who wasn’t British, but it was presented in a difficult – and brilliant – manner. Shame did concern morally difficult subject matter, at least for the majority of us who still wish this was the Victorian Era. But this film does not have Read More

A Field in England (2013, Ben Wheatley)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

I don’t really know where to begin with this film. Experimental or avant garde cinema – whether that cinema forsakes narrative or not – rarely has a sense of humour. So I must say that it is a bit of a delight to watch an obviously “experimental” narrative film – kind of a rare thing these days, I should think – that has a strong sense of humour. I’m pretty sure it is the humour alone that saves this film from being either a disaster or boring. I have never been big on film effects unless I see a point Read More

Almost Human (2013, Joe Begos)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

So Jen, I’m trying to decide if this was the worst movie I have ever seen at TIFF. Really, Seth? That seem’s a little harsh. But Jen, the opening 5-10 minutes of it were painful. Seth, you’re right, that was bad. As was that scene in the diner, Seth. Jen, it was like we were watching Netflix,  Jen! Seth, it was almost as if the actors were better at acting hysterical than at just having normal conversations. Right, Seth? Right Jen. It might be easier to act hysterical. But Jen, that script didn’t help. No Seth, it didn’t. I mean, Read More