TFCA Friday: Week of July 19th, 2019

July 19, 2019

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

Opening this Week

The Art of Self-Defense (dir. Riley Stearns)

The dark comedy requires precise balance and timing; it’s like hard-boiling an egg while juggling lemons. The Art of Self-Defense pulls it off” — Chris Knight, The National Post

It’s pitched as a bone-dry, stylized comedy, and that might not be the best way to play this story” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It’s surreal and funny and at the exact same moments, sickening, verging on horror. Still wondering if its good or if it stinks” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

I haven’t stopped thinking about what it all could mean for the past several days” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Besides a few uncomfortable scenes, audiences will find difficulty in the film’s transition from comedy to psychological thriller… but those willing to accept the change will find Stearn’s film a daring, bold and refreshing change from the norm” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

The Farewell (dir. Lulu Wang)

The deep compassion of The Farewell lifts it above its absurd premise. People are alike all over, but how they cope with life’s vicissitudes can be as different as a joke told in English or Mandarin” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

It’s more heartfelt than dour, it’s fun, sweet, provocative, and demands serious inner reflection. One of the year’s most moving films brings tears weeks after seeing it” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A funny, finely observed generational study about identity, family and obligation, and how all three of those things can be one and the same” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It’s powerful, comforting, and complicated in equal measure; a best case outcome arising from an unbearably tough real life situation” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Substantive, engrossing and ultimately [deep] work about the bonds that hold and strengthen us” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

A sincere drama aided by a solid dramatic performance by Awkwafina” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

The kind of film to see with someone close to you. If you do, and they love it, and you don’t, feel free to bend that truth just a little for their sake” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The Lion King (dir. Jon Favreau)

Look closely at the scene where Rafiki paints a silhouette of Simba. To me, it looks more like Mickey Mouse, Disney’s symbol and corporate logo, than it does Simba. Whether by accident or design, it points up just how much of a calculated corporate product this movie is, rather than genuine artistic expression” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Both the apex and nadir of Disney’s endless campaign to harvest its animated classics for name recognition and additional revenue” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Many critics will point to The Lion King 2K19 as yet another huge stumble towards further homogenized blockbuster mediocrity, and while I can’t argue against such points, I can say that there’s plenty to admire in Favreau’s film in terms of its astounding technical acumen” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

It mostly works – there were a mere handful of moments where the technique stuttered or threatened my suspension of disbelief – but again, why bother?” — Chris Knight, The National Post

There is something indelibly joyful about the playful elasticity of hand-drawn animation that is lost in Favreau’s photorealistic world, while the musical numbers feel silly, if not jarring” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

In spite of the obvious care and affection that has gone into this remake, the movie itself is emotionally flat” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

The most cinematic, sweeping moments are directly evocative of the animated original, which only serves to remind us of the brilliant, cinematic audacity of the hand-drawn (with CGI augmentation) version, and how little visually Favreau has actually added to this landscape” — Jason Gorber, High-Def Digest, including a great summary of the original film’s soundtrack

Old material can still be entertaining, given a few fresh twists” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies (dir. Larry Weinstein) 🇨🇦

Might work best for younger viewers. It’s the kind of work that might translate most easily to high school classroom settings because it’s very good at breaking propaganda down into easily understandable and digestible terms” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

It’s exhausting and depressing and it’s not fake, it’s all too real” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

It’s fascinating to watch Larry Weinstein use the concepts populated in his film to get his message across” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Push (dir. Fredrik Gertten)

A sharp indictment of a broken system made with the utmost empathy for those caught up in its insidious machinations” — Andrew Parker, The Gate, including an interview with the film’s director

Anyone puzzled, shocked or traumatized by the outlandish prices of rent and property ownership will find vindication and moral indignation [here]” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

This clear-eyed, deeply disturbing investigation into government and market forces that quash citizens makes greed visible and reminds us that as the UN decrees, housing is a human right” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

In POV Magazine, Pat Mullen chats with the filmmaker on the urgent topic of housing

Roads in February (dir. Katherine Jerkovic) 🇨🇦

Jerkovic is a gifted, intuitive storyteller who doesn’t need to oversell her movie’s emotional undercurrents; she trusts her audience to understand what’s going on simply by paying attention to her actors’ faces” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Jerkovic’s imprint is clearly stamped in her film, where one can feel the heat of the village surroundings and the alienation of her two characters” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

A revelation to behold, and [a] reminder that not all films about grieving families have to be pitched at a melodramatic level” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Sword of Trust (dir. Lynn Shelton)

Lynn Shelton is back in her happy place with her new feature Sword Of Trust: mining bittersweet character comedy from insecurity and confusion. It’s like she’s never been away” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Each of the four actors are able to create unique characters of distinct imperfections and strengths. Their interactions with each other work well” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Its best sequences are rather effective, and Shelton’s cast brings a lot of good will, but this is also a curiously missed opportunity” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

TIFF’s Opening Night Movie

In the Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz breaks down the Robbie Robertson doc that’s slated to open the fest

On Killing Patient Zero

In Maclean’s Magazine, Brian D. Johnson writes on the powerful documentary by Canadian filmmaker Laurie Lynd that sets out to clear Gaëtan Dugas’ reputation once and for all, while challenging the urban legend that he was a sexual predator who deliberately infected his lovers