TFCA Friday: Week of Jan. 7

January 7, 2022

The Tender Bar | Claire Folger/Amazon

Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.


Yes, movie theatres are again closed in Ontario. As our members shuffle their editorial calendars and reschedule reviews/interviews, here are some films to watch at home, or see via a quick flight to Winnipeg.


For more on the movie theatre shutdown, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail argues that the latest round of closures is a “shameful” display: “Even in the age of Omicron, cinemas are one of the most controlled indoor public environments available for a quick escape outside one’s home, at least in Ontario: 50 per cent capacity, mandatory masking, little to no talking or movement, and, recently, a concessions ban to foil any mask mischief (a move that also makes the business essentially unsustainable). Yet for reasons unexplained, arbitrary or punitive, a sector seemingly regarded as politically expendable has been crushed by Queen’s Park once again.”


2022 Cineplex Emerging Critic Award!


Have you mastered the perfect Letterboxd review, blogged your heart out about a film you loved, and wondered how to take the next step? We are now accepting applications for the 2022 Cineplex Emerging Critic Award! Writers in the early stages of their careers are encouraged to apply. Get the details here.


This week in movies!

The 355 (dir. Simon Kinberg)


The 355 is enjoyable, go-lady nonsense that eventually exhausts itself with its ambitions to be more,” writes Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail. “It’s like watching a woman have a furious argument with herself about a man who doesn’t love her enough, only it’s about spy movies.”


“As expected, it is a cheesy piece of work so expect major cheesiness and no-brain entertainment, and a good time can be had,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

Arctic Drift (dir. Ashley Morris)


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “absolutely compulsive viewing.”


Ascension (dir. Jessica Kingdon)


Kingdon makes an extraordinarily perceptive feature directorial debut with her thoughtful canvasses. Ascension has the scope and grandeur of Anthropocene and Manufactured Landscapes as it witnesses the scale of human activity and the cost of unfettered capitalism.” raves Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.

Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness (dir. Eric Black)


Aware is a slow burn of an informative documentary that requires some patience and an open mind to appreciate, though one might not agree that everything the subjects profess is true,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

Delicate State (dir. Paula Rhodes)


“Though performances and execution are sometimes roughly amateurish, there’s a grim credibility to the scenario and a poignant parallel between Rhodes’ swelling belly and the rising anger in the streets,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Along the real-time pregnancy diary videos, the filmmakers added footage from political protests, including the 2016 Women’s March, into their narrative about the gestation of a new American civil war.”


“Many films can be described as smart and funny. Delicate State can be described as the complete opposite, as if filmed by a little kid just given a new toy video camera,” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

For the Sake of Vicious (dir. Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen)


“[T]he film contains more than a fair share of vicious violence,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

June Again (dir. J.J. Winlove)


“The best feel-good comedy about serious dementia,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

See for Me (dir. Randall Okita; Jan. 11 🇨🇦)


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “an OK thriller, mildly entertaining.”


The Tender Bar (dir. George Clooney)


“I found the story to be scattered and loose and there’s an uncomfortable cloud of violence and danger always at the edges, not the feel-good film it wants to be,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Still, an interesting portrait of a creative boy.”


“Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan are the middle-school and college-aged versions of J.R, respectively, with Ben Affleck reaching back to his worldly-wise working-class-hero deal in Good Will Hunting to play Uncle Charlie,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “Affleck also threads a fun Clooney impression into his performance, which stands out because everything else seems to be on autopilot.”


“Affleck is miscast though, once again, one suspects that he wanted to be Uncle Charlie,” observes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “But Affleck simply isn’t believable as a lovable loser, running a bar, with endless time to spend with his nephew.”


The Tender Bar has no climax to speak of, no huge drama, no surprises or sudden deaths or moments of reckoning or revelation,” sighs Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “It’s not clear what Clooney’s hope for his film was, but presumably it was grander than what lands on the screen.”


“(Director) Cooney believes in the strength of his material and never resorts to cheap dramatic theatrics, which is the main reason this understand drama works,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (dir. Kier-La Janisse; Jan. 10)


“Despite it running time of 3 hours, the dozens and dozens of old horror clips, put together are enough to keeps ones interest to make a list of to- rent or buy unseen horror gems,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

Death and the Future


Whether one thinks the Golden Globes’ cancellation was fair or unfair, the loss of a schmoozy, booze-fuelled awards show has implications for cinephiles. At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz considers the end of Hollywood’s oft-derided gong show: “The death of the Globes may be well-deserved, but its passing will only help accelerate the current and depressing trendline: less adult-oriented fare making its way to audiences, more mechanical franchises that don’t require awards-season word-of-mouth dominating the market.”


Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude might be the ultimate “death movie,” but Peter Howell at Night Vision looks at it anew through the youthful lens of Licorice Pizza’s release and its own age-gap romance. “I’m now closer to Maude’s age than Harold’s, yet at a recent screening I found myself identifying with both characters,” writes Howell. “The film smiles at rebellion and kicks at society’s pricks but it also has compassion for the distress a young person might feel when there’s no apparent reason for existence.”


At Night Vision, Peter Howell remembers the late, great Peter Bogdanovich by revisiting a 2012 interview with the director for the Toronto Star. It turns out that the man who made so many movies wasn’t really one for movie-going! “‘I don’t see a lot of movies. I really have to be dragged (to the theatre). Because they’re so bad, most of them. You just feel, ‘What’s the point?’,” Bogdonich told Howell. “His melancholy oddly fits with the reason for his Toronto visit. Bogdanovich was here last weekend for a TIFF Bell Lightbox screening of The Last Picture Show, his 1971 landmark that mourns the fading of youth and the silver screen in a small Texas town…But what beef, exactly, does Bogdanovich have with modern movies? ‘I just think films have become so decadent. Fast, fancy cutting just for the sake of cutting. Just because it’s something to do, like eye candy or whatever. These stupid movies, these ‘tentpole movies, ‘ which is a term I hate, are just inane. I have no interest in them.'”


Looking ahead, Barry Hertz offers a list of his most anticipated films of 2022 at The Globe and Mail, including Sarah Polley’s first dramatic feature in a decade, a one-two punch of Cronenbergs, a double-dose of Denis, and Clement Virgo’s return to the big screen with Brother: “Telling the story of two Scarborough brothers (Lamar Johnson and Aaron Pierre) who run up against questions of masculinity, family, race and identity in the summer of 1991, Brother is one of the most anticipated Canadian films of the year.”

TV Talk: Phung Times


At NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner profiles Andrew Phung ahead of the debut of his latest series Run the Burbs and learns what the Kim’s Convenience star took away from his previous hit: “Be specific, but then also be vague,” says Phung. “You had people who thought Kim’s Convenience could be a store in small-town Saskatchewan. I learned a lot from the show about making things as relatable as possible.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie ventured into January releases and lived to tell about it, with the “women in peril” series Angela Black (“follows the formula but Froggat’s nuanced performance raises the level of the WIP genre”), MacGruber (“pretty adolescent stuff”), and The Righteous Gemstones (“I wasn’t offended by the series as much as off my dinner”).


And stay tuned for the 2022 TFCA Awards to be live-tweeted at noon on Sunday, Jan. 16.!