Reviews include Across the Spider-Verse, Bones of Crows, and Close to Vermeer.
TFCA Friday: Week of March 10
March 10, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
ICYMI: Earlier this week, the TFCA had its annual awards gala, hosted by Amanda Brugel at the OMNI King Edward Hotel, where Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps won the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. See highlights from the gala here.
In Release this Week
Blueback (dir. Robert Connelly)
“The mother-daughter conflict between local and planetary concerns is not well developed, and in general, scenes involving human interaction feel flat, with the functional dialogue of episodic television,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Everything seems much clearer, and more magical, whenever the camera goes under the surface, the dialogue stops, and Nigel Westlake’s string-heavy score fills the soundtrack.”
Champions (dir. Bobby Farrelly)
“Despite performances by Woody Harrelson in the title role and Cheech Marin in a supporting one, it is the ‘challenged’ actors who steal the show,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Director Farrelly allows this and the tactic works.”
“Harrelson looks game in the role, though he does tend to spend a little too much time sighing his lines rather than saying them,” writes Chris Knight at Original Cin. “It’s a decent, ultimately forgettable performance in a film that needs to lose at least 20 minutes out of its two-hour running time.”
I Like Movies (dir. Chandler Levack 🇨🇦)
“A heart-tugging, film-loving smartypants with a wicked tongue rules!” cheers Anne Brodie at What She Said. “This character study, tell-all and comedy-drama seems fun ‘n’ games to start but develops complexity and emotional power in deep ways. Terrific stuff.”
“The sweat equity has paid off,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Thanks to Levack’s keenly observed, often laugh-out-loud hilarious script and Lehtinen’s and D’Ugo’s rich performances – the former reminds you of a young Jonah Hill meets Philip Seymour Hoffman, while the latter’s layered delivery begs for a future collaboration with indie titan Nicole Holofcener – I Like Movies debuted to enthusiastic word-of-mouth at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.”
“Perhaps the greatest gift I Like Movies gives audiences is its ability to transform with us as we age,” writes Rachel Ho at That Shelf. “To watch a film like this as a teenager will undoubtedly feel relatable and — if I may evoke the language of the youth — make one feel seen. As a 30-something watching I Like Movies, there’s a sense of pity painted onto Lawrence. We were all that teenager who thought we knew everything and only with age do we understand that we actually know very little and understand even less.
Inside (dir. Vasilis Katsoupis)
“Unfortunately, the answers that Katsoupis provides are unsurprising when they aren’t deadening,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Each attempt at escape sends Nemo (whose name we don’t learn until the end credits appear) deeper into a downward spiral – giving Dafoe a nice opportunity to cackle and bug his eyes out, but neglecting to background his deep-end performance with anything that is thematically interesting.” Hertz makes it worthwhile, though, by chatting with star Willem Dafoe about performing a one-man show: “You’d think you would feel a lot of pressure, but I didn’t because I had a lot of hands-on collaborators from all the different departments,” says Dafoe. “You can’t imagine my relationship with the prop department, how intimate that was.”
Scream VI (dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett)
“So long as the deaths are brutal, the performances energetic, and the entire movie at least vaguely self-aware of its own ridiculousness, then slash baby slash,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Scream VI (ScreaVI, if we’re feeling as cheeky as the film’s poster) doesn’t reinvent the blade – though for a hot minute it half-convinces itself that it has done just that – but it does deliver the goods, quickly and efficiently and oh-so-sharply.”
“Scream VI is necessarily violent though not nasty or excessive, but the graphic violence is obviously taken in good fun,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film follows the spirit of the franchise.”
This House / Cette maison (dir. Miryam Charles 🇨🇦; Mar. 14)
At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah calls it “an extremely slow moving picture with little story so, there is a lot of patience required to sit through this otherwise art piece of filmmaking.”
Woman of the Photographs (dir. Takeshi Kushida)
“This strange little number’s seductive; it depends on quiet so we can see inside their thoughts, ponder parallels between humans and bugs, and the tyranny of social media and realise that yet another woman has succumbed to body dysmorphia,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.
File Under Miscellaneous
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz considers the question of Canadian content and whether Oscar contenders like Women Talking, Turning Red, and Navalny—all directed by Canadians—are actually “Canadian.” “Under the current CRTC rules, a Canadian production can only qualify for financial incentives, including tax breaks, if it has Canadians in key creative positions (director, writer, star) and is at least 75 per cent financed by Canadians or Canadian companies that retain the IP rights,” writes Hertz. “If a Canadian company makes a successful movie inside the Canadian system, then it will have incentive to keep doing so. This means that Canadian artists and craftspeople – actors, writers, assistant directors, set designers, makeup artists – continue to get work, and that Canadian stories continue to be told for (presumably) appreciative Canadian audiences.”
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson considers tough love with a look at the societal shifts behind Charlotte Rampling’s Juniper and gruff avuncular Harrison Ford in Shrinking: “Ruth [Rampling] may be frail but her resolve is steely — she’s rude and arrogant and she pairs brutal honesty with tough love,” writes Atkinson. “But their time together also works a sort of fifth-act renewal for the seemingly indomitable grandmother.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz offers five films to stream that Oscar ignored, including one of our own winners, Nope: “I’m not entirely convinced that Jordan Peele’s sci-fi/horror/film industry satire works as a whole better than it does when sliced and diced into pieces,” writes Hertz. “But on their own, those pieces should have at least counted for something when it comes to the Academy. Like, say, Keke Palmer’s performance as a too-enthusiastic alien hunter. Or the film’s meticulous, envelope-pushing cinematography, which reimagines a UFO film as a One Perfect Shot-style collection of iconic images.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Kingston, Cinéfranco, Human Rights Watch
In a report at the TFCA Blog, Chris Knight, Jason Gorber, Courtney Small, and Pat Mullen report from the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Highlights included Relax, I’m from the Future, Viking, Norbourg, Stellar, and a controversial meatball sandwich that had everybody talking.
At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah offers capsule reviews of festival highlights, including Simone Veil: A Woman of the Century: “Simone Veil offers an intimate and epic portrait of a singular woman who eminently challenged and transformed her era defending a humanist message still keenly relevant today,” writes Seah.
Meanwhile, at Afro Toronto, Seah looks at some of the films at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival including Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom: “this doc is riveting and one can only hope all this will soon come to an end.”
At Original Cin, Jim Slotek and Liam Lacey preview the Human Rights Watch Film Festival including an interview with co-chairs Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier: “As filmmakers, I really like the opportunity this gives us to completely invert our relationship with the medium,” de Pencier says. “We’re spectators, curators. It’s a great learning shift for us. You become obsessed and myopically focused on a film when you’re making it. This is such a more panoramic view of what the film experience can be.”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles: Laughs with Lasso
At What She Said, Anne Brodie praises the return of Ted Lasso: “With its great warmth, bracing wit, dialogue and pacing, the idea of overcoming obstacles with a true animate heart; a global moment together is endlessly appealing. His team is enchanted by Ted and his spirit as we are. Like you, I just like spending time with these people.”
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey binges the eight-party “comedy” series History of the World: Part II: “The series is designed as an anthology of short bits, weaving in and out of several ongoing story lines, with stand-alone sketches in between,” notes Lacey. “It mostly moves quickly, with a firehouse of puns, body-humour jokes, and pop culture references. It’s a decidedly mixed bag, often juvenile and sometimes as flat as a weak Saturday Night Live sketch.”
For TFCA members’ Oscar predictions and picks, as well as commentary and articles related to this year’s awards, visit our Oscar Central.