Members name the standout docs at this year’s festival.
TFCA Friday: Week of Feb. 19
February 19, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Anne at 13,000 ft. (dir. Kazik Radwanski 🇨🇦)
“Anne at 13,000 ft, one of three nominees for the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award at the March 9 Toronto Film Critics Association’s virtual gala, is a triumph for Radwanski, his best film yet,” declares Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “But it’s even more so for Toronto’s Deragh Campbell, whose riveting performance as a woman on the verge of vertigo is a sight to behold and an invitation to anticipate her future work.”
“Campbell’s dynamic and physically expressive performance slowly reveals a vulnerable woman who either can’t hide her emotions or maybe just doesn’t want to. She doesn’t do well with adults or adulating,” raves Linda Barnard at Original Cin.
“I think it is now finally safe to confirm that Radwanski represents the brightest hope for the future of Canadian film,” argues Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “There is simply no other homegrown filmmaker today experimenting with form and character, and coming out the other side with work that bends and breaks in the most affecting manner, as Radwanski.”
“Anne is clearly troubled, but Radwanski wisely avoids making any pat diagnoses, even at second-hand, and so I shall follow his lead and do the same,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “But led by Campbell’s expressive features, viewers will be drawn into Anne’s orbit, anxious to divine what drives her to behave in such destructive ways, and what is weighing her down.”
“Anne isn’t often likeable: she’s prickly, erratic, spastic, and mercurial, but Campbell injects the young woman with restless abandon, ensuring that she gets a viewer’s skin without ever letting them inside Anne’s head,” notes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.
“An empathetic handheld camera captures her whiplash journey, never more than a few inches from her face,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “We feel the pain she feels.”
“If the Dardenne brothers remade A Woman Under the Influence, it might look a lot like Radwanski’s latest study of a Torontonian in a slow-motion crisis: this time, his protagonist is a young day-care worker whose equilibrium is slipping out of her grasp,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
“[I]n your face filming that can be quite annoying and disturbing. (Not a bad film) if only director Radwanski would pull back his camera once in a while to show the film’s background or set decoration,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Radwanski is still in his 30s but has already created a visual and narrative signature after three features,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “His films are tough, poignant but unsentimental tales of loners attempting to come to grips with life.”
“A keenly detailed and emotionally charged snapshot of a young woman in free fall (both figuratively and literally), Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft. is a monumental achievement on an intimate scale,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate with a spotlight on the film’s star Deragh Campbell, who, like Radwanski, offers hope for the future of Canadian cinema.
On the TFCA blog, José Teodoro talks skydiving and cinema with Radwanski, further illuminating why he’s one of the talents heading Toronto’s next wave of filmmakers.
Apollo 11: Quarantine (dir. Todd Douglas Miller)
“Miller once again delivers a technically accomplished film and a work of art,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Quarantine shares Apollo 11’s masterful restoration of archival material, including some 70mm gems, and its ingenuity in providing every best vantage point to witness a landmark event.”
“The film features a variety of ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, including the unpacking and careful handling of exposed film and precious moon rocks,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “And we witness Armstrong’s 39th birthday, celebrated in quarantine. He approaches the job of blowing out the cake’s candles with the eye of an engineer and the lung capacity of a top-tier astronaut.” Knight looks at the film with the series For All Mankind, which space buffs can pair with the short for the full story of the moon landing.
Blithe Spirit (dir. Edward Hall; Feb. 23)
“Dench’s clairvoyant is cartoonish and overall, the whole affair is disappointing,” sighs Anne Brodie at What She Said. “I mean, Judi Dench is wasted!”
Flora and Ulysses (dir. Lena Khan)
“Disney Studios has been known to deliver formulaic films, which they often work,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Flora and Ulysses is that rare Disney flop that tries too hard, while using up all the clichés found in family animated animal movies. Rabid!”
“Seems to me there’s a tremendous amount of violence and upset for what looks like a frothy cute pet film,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But I suppose superheroes need to train.”
I Care a Lot (dir. J. Blakeson)
“Pulpy, trashy and ultimately forgettable, I Care a Lot may not be great filmmaking but it’s audacious storytelling and a heckuva ride,” explains Chris Knight at the National Post. “And before you complain that it crashes and burns in the final act, stop and ask yourself: How could it not?”
“Six years -after Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike finally gets the chance to play another irredeemable person – and this time, she really gets to have fun with it,” reflects Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
“Some of the most fun one can have watching wickedly evil and irredeemable people tearing each other apart, J Blakeson’s sunny looking but coal mine dark comedy I Care a Lot is a bit of carefully calculated, rapidly escalating ridiculousness with a purpose,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“It’s a disturbing story and Pike is as sharklike as it gets with that pointy hair, spiky shoes and single-minded, take-no-prisoners laser focus,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Playing Marla, a legal conservator who smooth-talks judges and defrauds elderly clients with glee, an icy and constantly vaping Pike finally gets the chance to play a delightfully malevolent villain after proving that’s what she was born to do with 2014′s Gone Girl,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“With a most timely relevant and brilliantly entertaining script, I Care a Lot is one of the most deliciously wicked films of the year,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Nose (dir. Clément Beauvais; Feb. 22)
“[T]he jarring music track is problematic, too bold and fashion showy for this mediation on scent, but as it’s subtitled, it can be watched muted,” advises Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“But within this man (Dior’s perfumer, Demachy) lies a vast bed of knowledge, and it is this knowledge that makes Nose such an intriguing film,” sniffs Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.
The Sinners (dir. Courtney Paige 🇨🇦)
Anne Brodie gets candid with this slasher at What She Said, saying, “Not good, no purpose, clichéd, so I bailed early.”
“With a religious slant, The Sinners ends up meaner than Mean Girls,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Some Kind of Heaven (dir. Lance Oppenheim)
“[A] shallow look, focusing only on a few more interesting residents while not going into any depth into the institution or the system,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The doc focusses on a handful of people, an elderly man devoted to hallucinogens, a widow who loses a potential boyfriend when a newer model comes by, a guy who loves in his van and is aggressively looking for a woman rich and pretty enough for his taste. Fascinating,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“There could stand to be a bit more substance in terms of depicting The Villages as a unique entity where rules and standards of living are different from those of other retirement communities, but Oppenheim’s narrowed focus still offers a lot of insight into the aging process,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Supernova (dir Harry Macqueen)
“There’s something studiously inoffensive about the film, from its picture postcard landscapes and cozy interiors to the warm sweaters both men – who have played gay characters before and seem believably comfortable and affectionate with each other – wear,” observes Glenn Sumi at NOW Magazine.
“Tucci gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the intelligent bon vivant who confronts his future when faced with dementia,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “This is a wonderful film about savouring life and love in the moment.”
Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail speaks with Supernova MVP and the internet’s unexpected cocktail king Stanley Tucci about turning his real-life bromance with Colin Firth into an onscreen romance: “[A]s soon as I read Harry’s script, I thought it should be offered to Colin, too,” says Tucci. “And when you’re working with somebody you know intimately for an extended period of time, and when you’re playing characters going through all this emotional stuff on-screen, our friendship only made it deeper.”
“The pandemic of mental disease is the great shadow over the film; you feel its dark presence in these two loving, blameless human beings. It’s sad and illuminating, and not easy,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“British writer/director Harry Macqueen sets his very assured second feature in the country’s Lake District, with resultant take-your-breath-away scenery,” says Chris Knight at the National Post.
“[An] immensely powerful drama confronting the problem of growing old, and with all the ailments that go with it,” raves Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“But a following scene at a celebratory table as a faltering Tusker asks Sam to read a speech that includes his feelings for his partner is powerful and poignant,” writes Linda Barnard at Original Cin. “If we were allowed to sit in a movie theatre these days, that’s the moment you’d hear people around you sniffing back tears.”
“Aided immeasurably by leads Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci giving two of their career best performances, Supernova balances bitterness and sweetness to near perfection,” declares Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Films like Supernova often lead to the big questions: what should one do when faced with dementia and Alzheimer’s? Tusker, a man who has a plan for everything, is sure to come up with a resolution that works for him,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
Synchronic (dir. Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead)
“[An] outrageous premise that has too many loose points (and) worst still, the directors are way too serious with their story which looks as if it is made up as they go along,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The attempt to make a different sort of time and reality blurring narrative is admirable, but Synchronic never gels into something truly satisfying,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“I gave myself over to the ride, trusting the filmmakers and actors to find a coherent through-line, and I’m pretty sure it worked out for the best,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Test Pattern (dir. Shatara Michelle Ford)
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto says it “scores full marks as a relevant film of the times.”
Truth to Power (dir. Garin Hovannisian)
“Director Hovannisian steers the film to its moving climax with the Armenia’s largest protest of social disobedience showing how music can change the world,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
At the National Post, Chris Knight previews the massive slate of films dropping on Disney+ this month. Highlights from the library of over 500 titles include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Shape of Water, and Zardoz.
At NOW Magazine, Norm Wilner also looks at the Disney+ dump. Highlights on his list include Dead Presidents, Crimson Tide, and, yes, Zardoz.
What does love in the time of COVID look like? Cinephiles who are still hungover from Valentines Day can check out a trio of pandemic-appropriate romances in this trio of films curated by Karen Gordon at Original Cin.
TV: Celebrity Scandals
At What She Said, Anne Brodie looks at a duo of ripped-from-the-tabloids documentaries, Framing Britney and Allen v. Farrow. “There’s much to unpack here as we look back to a predatory time in the history of stardom. In mho, fame has changed. Instagrammers get rich and famous staying home, virtually and judging by Spears’ sad case, that’s a good thing,” she says of Britney. On the Allen/Farrow saga, she notes, “In-depth interviews with Mia, Dylan, journalist Ronan Farrow, family friends, prosecutors, relatives, investigators, experts and eyewitnesses bring new information forward in this deeply disturbing, often hard-to-watch family tragedy.” Meanwhile, Tell Me Your Secrets is a “mixed up, teetering series” and It’s a Sin is “joyous and hopeful as well as heartbreakingly sad.”
At The Gate, Andrew Parker also looks at the salacious Allen v. Farrow, calling it “a compelling argument that speaks to a potential miscarriage of justice” while another story of a supervillain, The Making of Takeshi 6ix9ine is “an insightful look into what makes an online troll and notorious hip-hop snitch.” And of Tell Me Your Secrets, Andrew echoes Anne, calling it “one of the worst series [he’s] ever seen.”
At NOW Magazine, Radheyan also weighs in on Woody and Mia, saying, “On the one hand, the clearly authorized take directed by The Hunting Ground duo Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering can feel one-sided, missing a few unflattering beats about the Farrow clan’s troubled family life. On the other hand, none of the overlooked material takes away from Dylan Farrow’s story.” Kevin Ritchie looks at Supervillain for NOW, adding, “Supervillain is the latest pop-star documentary to unpack how our idols reflect the wider culture.”
At That Shelf, Jason Gorber offers an in-depth analysis of the LG OLED77CX TV. Is it worth the splurge for all your quarantine binge-watching?
Festember: The Second Wave
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey previews the five films at Toronto’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, saying, “are all testaments to commitment, both by the filmmakers in typically open-ended multi-year projects, and their subjects, individuals demonstrating resilience under extreme pressure.”
From the Vault: Nurse.Fighter.Boy.
Charles Officer’s first feature Nurse.Fighter.Boy. gets a retrospective this week at TIFF as part of a series devoted to Black storytelling. The film debuted at TIFF 2008 and further established Officer as one of the vital voices in the Toronto film scene, a point he’d double down on with docs like Unarmed Verses. Here is Liam Lacey’s original review from The Globe and Mail on Nurse.Fighter.Boy’s theatrical release:
The plot is almost perfunctory: Silence, an emotionally isolated man with a shaved head and spray of white stubble in his beard, helps run a boxing gym by day and moonlights as a brawler against younger fighters in illegal late-night slugfests. One summer night, he takes a cut to the head and shows up in the emergency ward, where Jude stitches him up. They feel an emotional connection, but she’s wary of pursuing it until circumstances change. Meanwhile, Ciel, taunted as a mama’s boy by the neighbourhood brats, needs to learn how to defend himself. Silence’s interest in helping is honest, and his help is needed.
Officer’s approach is refreshingly eccentric. Typically overlit and closely framed, the shots are filled with colour-saturated yellows, reds and blues, and melting montages; almost everything is accompanied by a rhythm-oriented soundtrack.
Contrasting with the different colour schemes associated with different milieus (gym, hospital, home), there are lovely free-wheeling shots of bicycle trips through Toronto’s downtown alleys that cast a fresh eye on the city. And as the film progresses, instead of dramatic fireworks, there are moments of pop-up inspiration reminiscent of Lars von Trier at his most precious and startling – a trio of Jamaican angels singing a spiritual, a character who suddenly pops up in an azure sea.