An interview with Someone Lives Here director Zack Russell about his Rogers Best Canadian Documentary nominee on Toronto’s housing crisis.
TFCA Friday: Week of June 30
June 30, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this week!
El Dorado (dir. Benjamin Cantu and Matt Lambert)
“The doc, essentially a history lesson, and a very colourful and gay one at that, paints not only an account of the old now defunct club but also a few of the characters that frequent the club,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It is a good mix of subjects that keep the doc intriguing, especially making it more personal with these personal stories.”
Every Body (dir. Julie Cohen)
“It is so emotionally rewarding to see these people, 0.07% of the American population manage to find themselves, unite and make a statement,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “These intersex people prove that there is no black or white in terms of male or female, and that they are indeed beautiful people and very attractive at that, all being in their younger days. Running at an hour and a half, this doc comes with my highest recommendations!”
“Every Body puts human faces on a growing movement. Moreover, it’s a welcome portrait of queer joy for a community that needs support now more than ever,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine, who interviews director Julie Cohen about bringing the intersex story to the screen. “I made a conscious decision to only have people who had talked publicly about their bodies a fair amount in the past star in the film,” explains Cohen. “I didn’t want their first experience talking publicly about this very private information as part of our film. That would add a weight that I wasn’t ready to take. All three of them are pretty strong people and having already worked through their trauma and have a fair amount of maturity made it easy.”
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (dir. James Mangold)
“[T]hrough a mystical combination of CGI trickery, more than the usual number of stunt doubles and Ford’s own inestimable mix of surliness and charm, the latest film succeeds at intermittently recapturing some of the magic of the original. I’d call that a win,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “But given the mess that was Indy 4, it’s nice to see the series go out on a more palatable note. I’m happy to watch Ford’s fantastic, I’ve-just-found-what-I’m-looking-for grin, just one more time before he hangs up the hat and bullwhip for good. And to see him punch a few more Nazis.”
“The Indiana Jones movies have always been an action series, but Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny feels even more so. Structurally, it feels a lot like a Mission: Impossible film, with long, exciting and daring action sequences in far-flung locations, and on land, in the air, under the ocean, knitted together with quieter moments that give the characters time to reflect a bit, and also advance the plot,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “This is the first of the Indiana Jones films not directed by Steven Spielberg. James Mangold has met the challenge, directing with vigour and energy, and giving the movie the right edgy tone, as befits Indy’s personality and in keeping with the tone of the series overall.”
“Does Harrison Ford even want to be here?” asks Jackson Weaver at CBC. “Judging by the performance in the Indiana Jones swan song Dial of Destiny, the answer’s got to be no. The former carpenter turned reluctant action star has been the face of this franchise for coming up on half a century now — a fact the curmudgeonly Ford seems to dislike more and more as time goes on.”
“The film can roughly be described as a series of action set-pieces, a few meticulously crafted strung together by the typical action narrative,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “After a while, especially during its over two-hour running time, these action sequences that include some typical ones like a motorbike chase and running atop a running train are a challenge to keep fresh and exciting.”
“Neither triumph nor disaster, Dial of Destiny settles for checking off franchise tropes — MacGuffin, Nazis, tombs, sidekicks — as it labours through a global quest for a compact time machine designed by the great mathematician Archimedes, who of course also broke it in two and designed an elaborate hiding place for one of the pieces,” says Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “It’s all pretty goofy and laborious over its 142-minute running time. But there’s a fabulous extended opening sequence, set in 1944, in which really great CGI de-aging tech drops decades from Ford’s face and body, allowing him to meet Voller in the past. Imagine what can be done with this tech in the future.”
“In order to freshen up the Indiana Jones series, director James Mangold and his screenwriting team, which includes the great playwright Jez Butterworth (whose The Ferryman is likely a masterpiece), have added a true wild card to the cast: Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It was the amazing Waller-Bridge who wrote the dark and funny assassin comedy Killing Eve and starred, wrote, and directed Fleabag, a totally brilliant and wicked take on life in contemporary London,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Now here she is, cast as ‘Wombat’ in an Indiana Jones thriller. In the old days, this would have been like casting Gilda Radner or Phyllis Diller in a James Bond movie. It wouldn’t have even been considered. Truly, we are in the post-COVID era.”
“The addition of Waller-Bridge to the cast is curious,” argues Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “It is clear that the acerbic Fleabag star is meant to be the antidote to whatever it was that Spielberg thought LaBeouf’s junior adventurer brought to the Indy mythos. But in practice the actress contributes little of value, arguably becoming more of a liability than a secret weapon. She quietly deflates any rat-a-tat banter that the film’s many screenwriters think they’re injecting into the proceedings, and instantly imbalances any chemistry Helena is supposed to have with Indy.”
“A lot has been made of the use of AI to de-age Ford and Mikkelsen in the first section of the film, so let’s get it out of the way: it’s markedly better than The Irishman, but clearly the technology still has a ways to go,” writes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “The Dial of Destiny has intriguing ideas that makes for a better send-off than Crystal Skull, and seeing Ford don that khaki outfit one last time is a real treat — but despite Mangold’s efforts to recapture the whimsy of Indy, The Dial of Destiny falls flat.”
The Last Rider (dir. Alex Holmes)
“This is a tremendous underdog story, and it works because Holmes shows a viewer exactly who LeMond is and why he was so popular — then as now,” writes Liz Braun at Original Cin. “It’s also an interesting trip down memory lane to watch these cyclists compete before the days of doping and scandal (not that it was unknown back then, but still). Another reason that ‘89 Tour stands out in memory, as LeMond says near the end of the film, is because after that it was, ‘the era of EPO (erythropoietin) and Armstrong.’”
Making Time (dir. Liz Unna)
“There’s a shot that director Liz Unna returns to again and again in Making Time: A sparkling assortment of brass gears, springs, and other miscellaneous bits of watchmaking elements appear scattered chaotically in a pile. The image speaks to both the complexity of the horological pursuits and how the practice can’t be parsed for most mortals. It seemingly suggests that to even begin to understand what goes into watchmaking, one must discern meaning from this pile of disparate bits,” says Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “Instead, the metaphor speaks more eloquently to Unna’s earnest yet frustratingly banal film about watch making.”
Mascarade (dir. Nicolas Bedos)
If only director Bedos’ film managed to hold the interest of the first third, it would have succeeded as a Chabrol-like wicked thriller,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco. “Instead, the film falls into pastiche melodrama filled with characters no one really cares for.”
Matter Out of Place (dir. Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
“Similar to Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal of Manufactured Landscapes and Into the Weeds, director Nikolaus Geyrhalter blends stunning visual compositions of their frames in wide angled shots in a mostly calm setting,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The camera is often steady and the audience sees from a distance what is going on and for some time. Both directors are concerned and are environmental activists through their documentaries that make a difference.”
Nimona (dir. Nick Bruno and Troy Quane)
“Nimona, its script, story and direction are all to be complemented for being so progressive in the world’s acceptance for one another,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
At Xtra, Pat Mullen speaks with Nimona creator ND Stevenson and star Eugene Lee Yang about bringing the film’s shapeshifting hero and story of queer friendship to the screen. “With Nimona being this chaotic spark that is essentially out there to change it all, the theme of identity is laid so confidently into these characters’ DNA,” Yang says. “None of their struggle is about being gay or about being gender nonconforming. Their struggle is about trying to survive a regime. That is also aligned with queer experience and it’s something that I hope people feel the echoes of as they turn around and look at their daily lives and what’s happening in countries like ours.”
Polarized (dir. Shamim Sarif 🇨🇦)
“The story of immigrants to Canada and lower economic classes battling it out for recognition, to be heard, and to rise above their stations and traditions, to fulfill the dream of living in a free Canada,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “We’ve seen it in Quebec vineyards, B.C. peach groves, and now in a successful vertical farm owned by Muslim immigrants.”
Rock Hudson: All that Heaven Allowed (dir. Stephen Kijak)
“Former lovers, friends, and co-stars people speak glowingly of Hudson’s affable personality and decency. But shockingly when asked about his being gay, Day said she didn’t know him and knew nothing about him, even after their many films together, appearing to distance herself from the issue – and her dear friend,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “A fascinating study of society not so long ago that is nearly unrecognisable to us today.”
Run Rabbit Run (dir. Daina Reid)
“[The] film fails to deliver its shocks and ends in what comes through as a rather expected and tepid climax,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
So Much Tenderness (dir. Lina Rodriguez 🇨🇦)
“Writer-director Lina Rodriguez might be Canada’s best-kept secret,” notes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “The Colombian-born, Toronto-based Rodriguez is a self-assured indie filmmaker who makes quiet, thoughtful movies that walk softly, but convey deep and complex emotions. The characters in her movies — and their dilemmas — stay with you… She creates an aura that is intimate, putting a lot of trust in her actors to convey their feelings in sequences where they may not be saying much, or doing anything extraordinary. She prefers to let us observe her well-drawn characters as they go about their day-to-day lives, leaving us to come to our own conclusions.”
“Rodriguez stages scenes that last longer than usual, allowing for the emotions of her main characters to be expressed properly. Not overtly arty, her style emphasizes their natural lives: Aurora effortlessly chopping vegetables on a wooden board, the two women carrying a dresser down the sidewalk in a typical Toronto neighbourhood, Lucia and her two BFFs carrying on a conversation about boys in a bathroom while getting ready for a party,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Rodriguez stages a couple of memorable sequences at parties with groups huddled around kitchen tables telling elaborate anecdotes. We see Aurora at work, and whether dealing with kids at daycare or adults learning Spanish in adult education classes, she’s clearly exceptional at what she does.”
“Lina Rodriguez’ meditative, determinedly slow-paced TIFF entry, the immigration story So Much Tenderness follows a Colombian environmental lawyer Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) under death threats who flees to Canada,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The film is an immigrant struggle scenario, it’s something of a suspense thriller, and it takes its time to get into our bones. Rodriguez’ love of Toronto is clear in the film.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz speaks with director Lina Rodriguez about setting her latest drama in Canada after shooting in Colombia. “I know that I sound very artsy saying this, but I try not to look at my filmmaking life as a career, because that implies that I know where I’m going. My father-in-law, who sadly passed away, he prompted the idea of this film when he asked me, ‘Why don’t you make a film in Canada? You’re Canadian!’” says Rodriguez. “It was a simple comment, but he was right, and it got me thinking. A lot of the elements in the film come from my experience of being caught between Colombia and Canada.”
“Despite director Rodriguez’s (who serves also as writer and producer) well intentions and diligence in depicting the immigration process and unease at settling in another country, So Much Tenderness is quite a bore,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A List of Lists: The Best and Funniest of Canada, and 2023’s Tops
At CBC Arts, several TFCA members offer words in a massive survey that lists the top 50 feature-length films directed by Canadians. Here’s Kelly Boutsalis on the #1 choice, Atanarjuat: “It was unapologetically Inuit, from the cast and setting to the language and storytelling, and it wasn’t going to pander to non-Inuit audiences with overwrought explanations or dialogue.” At #4, Jason Gorber lights up Incendies: “a visually profound way of comparing motherland and home; travelling to the other side of the world is not sufficient to fully escape from the horrors of the past.” Meanwhile, Rachel Ho recaps Crash (the Cronenberg one) at #6: “Social commentary woven together with commanding storytelling has always been Cronenberg’s hallmark, and Crash is the perfect coalescence of what makes the filmmaker one of our country’s finest artists.” Cronenberg follows Cronenberg at #7 with Dead Ringers, written up by Norm Wilner: “Both Irons and Cronenberg have become legends in their respective pursuits… But I’d argue that Dead Ringers remains their greatest work: two bodies, two minds, one masterpiece.” At #8, Peter Knegt goes C.R.A.Z.Y. for Jean-Marc Vallée’s breakthrough film: “As the golden age of summer blockbusters fades further into the rearview, it’s nice to be reminded that once upon a time in the province of Quebec, this little movie that could was just too good to be ignored by the zeitgeist.” At #9, Courtney Small calls on Mr. Tibbs with praise for Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night: “What I love most about this multi-Oscar-winning film is the way it works as both a character study and an engaging crime drama.” Finally, Radheyan Simonpillai writes up entries 11-50, including James Cameron’s actioner Terminator 2: Judgment Day: “Cameron points a grenade launcher at the 1984 classic and blows everything up, repositioning his heroes and villains and toying with audience expectations in ways that are intentional and more than a little sentimental.”
At That Shelf, members Courtney Small, Rachel West, and Pat Mullen join the crew in picking the best films of 2023 so far. For Small, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is tops. “The film is the blueprint from which comic book films should be taking notes,” writes Small. For West, it’s BlackBerry. “Matt Johnson’s look at the rise and fall of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry is always compelling, often funny, and never dull,” writes West. Mullen agrees with the BlackBerry pick. “Jay Baruchel gives quite possibly the most Canadian performance ever as Mike Lazaridis, the overly modest and deferential wizard,” says Mullen.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz picks 23 mostly-Canadian movies to get audiences laughing on Canada Day. Atop the list is one with which audiences may not be familiar: The Wrong Guy, David Steinberg’s 1997 film starring Dave Foley. “Foley gets to show off his flair for smart-dumb slapstick, while Steinberg stuffs the film’s margins with a murderers’ row of Canadian character actors (Colm Feore, Enrico Colantoni and Kevin McDonald) all eager to get seriously silly,” says Hertz. “Woefully underappreciated during its initial release – and the subject of a brutal pan in these very pages – The Wrong Guy deserves a full acquittal.” Hertz also explains why The Wrong Guy, like too many Canadian films, is so far to find.
File Under Miscellaneous
For Canada Day, Anne Brodie at What She Said recommends the Tanya Tagaq doc Ever Deadly, which is now streaming from the NFB: “The Inuk performance artist’s concert is something to behold. I’ve seen videos and single performances but never a full concert and I’m not sure my heart could take that emotional spiritual and a cultural grand slam,” writes Brodie. “But I’d like to try. Her music and personal, daily life on the shale shores of our northern Arctic coast are the primary focuses, but we learn of her activism from MMIWG to defending the seal hunt – a tradition and necessity for people living on the land.”
Is his eye as good as his voice? At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell reports on a new photo book by Paul McCartney, 1964: Eyes of the Storm, which includes snapshots from The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show debut: “McCartney’s wide-eyed awe at the whirlwind surrounding the visit infuses the pictures. He snapped them, using only available light, with his newly acquired 35mm Pentax SLR camera, often while escaping pursuing fan,” writes Howell. “It’s fun to think that many of those Beatles fans, most of them now in their 70s or older, will be surprised to see themselves in these photos and realize the superstar they were fascinated with was also curious about them.”
At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes reports from the Barbie “Kenadian” marketing event where stars Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu teased fans about the upcoming film. “When they were asked what the fans need to know about each of their Kens, Liu brought the house down with laughs,” writes Fernandes. “‘I won’t name any names, but one of the Kens in the movie can backflip. And one of the Kens cannot. And that’s the most important thing I want you to know about our Kens,’ he teased as he looked at Gosling.”
Also on the fan front, Marriska Fernandes reports on Netlfix’s TUDUM event from Brazil. Highlights include the cast of Never Have I Ever giving the scoop on the latest and final season, while Queen Charlotte stars India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest dish on their breakout roles: “For me, what was crucial and vital was trust. This was a “first” role for both of us on a lot of different fronts. I needed to make sure that I could trust the person I was being this vulnerable with, and kind of not be scared to try things out and for things to go wrong,” Amarteifio says. “And Corey was there to give me that confidence booster. I also trusted him if I needed to fall— he would catch up and catch [me].”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles
At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho jets off with the Idris Elba vehicle Hijack: “Each episode is given its own roller coaster ride while fitting into a larger theme park,” says Ho. “Audiences are naturally taken through high suspense and adrenaline kicks, while also having room to breathe and reflect. Moreover, there’s a moment in the final episode that gives the entire series some depth as we see those working in air traffic control continue to go about their day, illustrating the unfortunate everyday nature of hijackings and violent standoffs.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie also hitches a ride with Hijack: “Realism and a high pitch make Hijack sing with nothing unnecessary; a full-bodied, smart experience,” writes Brodie. “A good international cast including Simon McBurney, Ruth Sheen, Archie Panjabi, and here’s a shout out to Waleed Elgadi who plays memorably the role of a Dubai ATC Supervisor, who first twigged to what was happening on the plane.” Meanwhile, Cannes Confidential could inspire some flights to France. “The jam-packed series is fun and light and quasi-exotic, even as Cannes is presented as a seaside Las Vegas,” says Brodie.