Members name the standout docs at this year’s festival.
TFCA Friday – Week of April 30
April 30, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
About Endlessness (dir. Roy Andersson)
“Roy Andersson’s stunning meditation on human nature is one-of-a-kind,” raves Anne Brodie at What She Said. “This is a major work of art by any measure, an authentic look at what we do.”
“Everything appears to have been sprayed with dust before filming,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “The actors, too, appear uniformly grey and pasty and tired.”
“The arrival of a new Andersson movie every few years should be heralded as an event, even if the idiosyncratic Swedish auteur seems to be running out of things to say,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine. “About Endlessness feels thinly sketched and not especially insightful.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it, “an excellent piece of filmmaking, proving once again director Andersson’s talent at filming with his customary aloofness.”
“Swedish auteur Roy Andersson is cinema’s maestro of mundanity, a man who can make a sigh seem as heavy as an anvil,” writes Peter Howell at Night Vision.
Amber’s Descent (dir. Michael Bafaro; May 4)
“[T]he final scenes are indeed quite chilling, and mentally scary in what can be described as a satisfying psychological horror thriller,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Catching a Serial Killer: Bruce McArthur (dir. James Buddy Day)
“For Toronto audiences that followed the case, the subsequent outcry in the LGBTQ community over police inaction and the independent review that found systemic discrimination hindered the investigation, Catching a Serial Killer will offer nothing new,” argues Kevin Ritchie at NOW Magazine.
Eat Wheaties (dir. Scott Abramovitch; May 4)
“A winning film about losers!” cheers Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The opening chapters are gently downcast and get darker as Sid struggles to maintain dignity even with his family, in the face of his cluelessness,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But after a long hard slog, the final chapters come roaring back to life.”
Golden Arm (dir. Maureen Bharoocha)
“Golden Arm…hits a sweet spot between predictability and originality,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Case in point: A scene of the two friends rocking out in the cab of Danny’s truck to Heart’s These Dreams feels like it could come from any female buddy movie of the past 20 years.”
“Ably steered by sketch and short-film director Bharoocha, Golden Arm is a fun, goofy comedy filled with engaging performers and unexpected laugh lines,” chortles Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “stupidity taken to the next level.”
The Mitchells vs the Machines (dir. Michael Rianda)
“[I]ts accomplishments go well beyond the visuals,” raves Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine, “like my beloved Shaun of the Dead, it’s an inventive, personal take on the apocalypse, where the (potential) end of everything is the catalyst for a blinkered character to appreciate the people and places they’ve taken for granted.”
“Colourful and crazy paced road trip animation, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is the goofy-smart and entertaining family fare we’ve been needing in these fun-challenged times,” chuckles Linda Barnard at Original Cin.
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a very clever satire,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It satirizes the typical American family and high tech while being absolutely laugh-out loud funny half the time.”
“Can a movie be just too much fun?” asks Chris Knight at the National Post. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a rambunctious, frantically paced adventure/comedy that makes Saturday morning cartoons of old feel like a documentary about walrus sleep patterns. You may want a hit of caffeine and sugar before you hit play, just so you can keep up with its wild energy level.”
The Oak Room (dir. Cody Calahan 🇨🇦)
“[T]he claustrophobic Canadian thriller The Oak Room is not much of a film, technically speaking. But it is a terrific and dark piece of storytelling by writer Peter Genoway that could be told around a campfire, performed onstage or embellished onscreen,” suggests Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
The Outside Story (dir. Casimir Nozkowski)
“I’m a Brian Tyree Henry fan, and he shines in the intimate feel-good / character study The Outside Story,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Director Nozkowski’s script is pretty cool,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Who can dislike a character like Charles who has a job as an editor for TCM? The script sneaks in a romance and messages like ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and helping one’s neighbour.”
Perfumes (dir. Grégory Magne)
“This lovely tale of friendship, set in a world foreign to most of us, soothes the soul, piques imagination and compassion,” sniffs Anne Brodie at What She Said. “A real pleasure.”
“The French have a nose for this kind of thing,” snorts Chris Knight at the National Post. “[L]ight and breezy, with plenty of gorgeous French scenery and a few culinary scenes that will have you pining for the days when you could eat in a crowded restaurant and remark on the scent being worn by your server.”
Son of the South (dir. Barry Alexander Brown)
“A film that matters, and one that riles up righter anger against racism and puts up Civil Rights Activists up on a pedestal,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The FBI and the media, following the Freedom Riders, come to town where tensions reach a head, a mess in ways only hate can make a mess,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But the seeds of freedom are sown.”
Still the Water (dir. Susan Rodgers 🇨🇦)
“Thanks to director of photography Christopher Ball, P.E.I. plays itself beautifully onscreen — swinging from cold and remote to travelogue-style gorgeous, setting mood and tone,” observes Linda Barnard at Original Cin.
“A decent film – one that has human values like accidents and fate and how normal human beings have to deal with their anxieties and blame,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Things Heard and Seen (dir. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini)
“Amanda Seyfried has a real thing for haunted houses and horrible spouses,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Well, good for Seyfried: She’s found a niche and is running with it.”
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (dir. Stephen Sollima)
“On one hand, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse will give fans of the late author’s clenched, dour action thrillers exactly what they want: a clenched, dour action thriller where an uncomplicated good guy wreaks righteous vengeance upon a shadowy cabal trying to launch a global conflict,” groans Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine. “On the other hand, it’s kind of a grind.”
“If you like your shootouts generic, your characters disposable and your plot twists as predictable as airport newsstand merchandise, then have I got the far-from-impossible mission for you,” challenges Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Incredible danger scenes, including being shot down by a Russian fighter jet, extended underwater sequences and constant firefights raise tension and there is little relief but we’re with Clark whose need for payback supersedes his need to survive,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“The plot lurches unsteadily from one set piece to the next, interspersed with dry meetings in grey offices, peopled with higher-ups played by the likes of Guy Pearce, always good when you need a morally ambiguous chief,” sighs Chris Knight at the National Post.
“There’s the occasional flash of purple dialogue about loving a country that doesn’t love us back,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “But mostly, this is a look at how solid actors can carry a nuts-and-bolts, dramatically undemanding action film.”
“This film is primed for a Tom Clancy/John Clark sequel – and that is all there is to this sorry excuse of an action film,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Hot Docs: Relish for the Virtual Festival
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell offers a dozen tips for festival screenings. On the menu? Sundance standouts Summer of Soul and Misha and the Wolves along with Canadian docs like Someone Like Me and Subjects of Desire.
At Variety, Jennie Punter speaks with Toronto’s Ann Shin about the personal approach she took to the festival’s opening night doc A.rtificial I.mmortality. Punter also speaks with The Story Will Not Die director David Henry Gerson and some of the artists featured in the doc about the migration crisis and art’s ability to draw attention to the war in Syria.
Barry Hertz drops an early top ten list for Hot Docs best bets at The Globe and Mail. Like Howell, he agrees that audiences should catch up on Misha and Soul, but for world premieres, he taps Spirit to Soar and the film with one of the most elusive screeners at Hot Docs, The Rossellini Family.
At POV Magazine, Marc Glassman introduces this year’s coverage, while Pat Mullen gets the scoop on what’s hot at Hot Docs from programming director Shane Smith and checks out The Changing Face of Europe. He also speaks with Canuck Jesse McCracken about his doc Grey Roads. Also at POV, Jason Gorber takes a line from Freddie Mercury while chatting with Ann Shin about AI and immortality, while Susan G. Cole speaks with Elizabeth D. Costa about Bangla Surf Girls. Check out the POV Hot Docs hub for more contributions including reviews like Liam Lacey’s very persuasive take on Gaucho Americano.
At Original Cin, Linda Barnard, Thom Ernst, Liam Lacey, and Jim Slotek break down the buzzy titles and give tips on what to see and skip at Hot Docs. Bank Job lands atop the “see it” pile and Lost Boys could put one’s bandwidth to better use. Jim Slotek also interviews journalist Tanya Talaga about her first doc Spirit to Soar, which screens at the festival.
NOW Magazine’s Hot Docs directory is flooded with reviews, interviews, and other contributions from Kevin Ritchie, Radheyan Simonpillai, Glenn Sumi, and Norm Wilner. Critics’ picks include Acts of Love, Street Gang, Wuhan Wuhan, and Her Socialist Smile.
TV – Mosquito Toast
Anne Brodie’s pick of the week at What She Said is the remake of The Mosquito Coast, which brings back memories of late star River Phoenix. “Beautifully written, directed and photographed, Mosquito Coast is addictive,” writes Brodie at What She Said. “Phoenix’s family lived as radical nomads as his large family moved about the US and abroad. They were tight. Parents were always present at interviews with the young actors River, Leaf (Joaquin), Rain and Summer. There’s an omnipresent Monarch butterfly following the family in the new series and I like to think it’s a tribute to River.” Meanwhile, Rutherford Falls is “wonderfully witty and groundbreaking,” Bäckström is “fascinating” and The Bad Seed is an “engaging whodunit.”
Anne Brodie also chatted with Hobbit heartthrob Aiden Turner about playing Leonardo da Vinci in the series Leonardo and digging deeper into the mind of one of the most influential men of all time. Leonardo is free on demand through Telus where available.
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At NOW Magazine, Kevin Ritchie spreads some butter for Cinema Toast, a COVID-friendly anthology series in which various filmmakers repurpose classic cinema: “David Lowery goes full minimalism, adding almost no dialogue to the full-on noir The Gunshot Heard ‘Round The World, while Alex Ross Perry is in retro-Red Scare gonzo mode, reanimating bizarre propaganda footage involving robotic dogs and talking cars.”
All the news that’s fit to print
True story: even with movie theatres closed, our film critics are busier than ever.
On that note, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail continues to look at the state of the Canadian exhibition business amid COVID closures. The forecast is discouraging, especially as theatres in the USA ready for a reset and a return to summer movie season. In Canada, however, theatre owners both independent and chain say they’re barely hanging on—and don’t expect any support from the government any time soon.
At NOW Magazine, Radheyan Simonpillai asks a tough question: if theatres are closed, should film production in Ontario shut down too? He speaks with doctors and professionals in the biz to see how the industry plans to deal with the present challenge of safety versus sustainability.
At CBC, Eli Glasner looks at how Marvel is making notable corrections to its casting choices by diversifying the actors who don their capes and cloaks. But making headway for representation can invite backlash, too, and Glasner speaks with several players in the MCU to unpack the complexity of this pivotal moment for Hollywood.
Barry Hertz dropped the news via The Globe and Mail that Mongrel Media is joining the growing list of streaming services in Canada. Nevertheless, Mongrel movies should promise much better streaming choices than the bizarre Oscars did on Sunday. Also, Anne Brodie reminds audiences that Mongrel distributed Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, which is worth a stream before (or after) seeing Nomadland.