TFCA Friday: Week of November 29th, 2019

November 29, 2019

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

Emerging Critic Award

The TFCA’s annual Emerging Critic Award is open for applications. With a $1,000 cash prize, this Award aims to elevate a new (or new-ish!) writer whose focus is critical perspectives on film. Read about this opportunity here.

Opening this Week

Assholes: A Theory (dir. John Walker) 🇨🇦

There’s much humour, but also a few swift kicks to the derriere delivered in the doc, including to supposedly mild-mannered Canadians” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Lightly sociological, somewhat silly, [and] nominally about a social phenomenon” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

It’s maybe not as funny as Walker wants it to be – a burbly jazz score tries very hard to force some lightness into the material – but it’ll leave you thinking about the assholes in your life, and whether you’re being one right now” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Dark Waters (dir. Todd Haynes)

Knowing how pervasive PFOA is in consumer goods and also our bodies — its deemed a “forever chemical” — it’s enough to make you want to chuck all of your non-stick and waterproofed products after seeing this movie” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

You won’t be able to leave your seat for fear of missing something in this corporate/real-life thriller” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

It’s an important topic, but mostly takes place in offices, boardrooms and the occasional court. Fortunately, Ruffalo makes for a compelling and sympathetic character, and the movie does a good job of lionizing his tenaciousness” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The filmmaker’s willingness to show us the toll of DuPont’s malfeasance in the flesh and bones of its victims, rather than turn the camera away, gives this legal procedural an immediate, almost tactile quality; we leave the theatre wondering what other rot is at work in the world, and if there’s any hope of stopping it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

One can only imagine the bills that Todd Haynes had to pay before directing this” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

While [this] is something of a let-down for a Haynes film, it’s otherwise sturdy enough” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

I Lost My Body (dir. Jérémy Clapin)

It’s sweet and sad and complex, using that disembodied hand as the locus of a tale of survival and desire that spans decades. Go figure” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)

It’s as much a ’toon as it is a hat tip to the elaborate mechanics of an Agatha Christie mystery. It’s silly and suspenseful in equal measure” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A charming and wonderfully crafted whodunnit that, despite the inevitable presence of a dead body, plays like a warm and cozy antidote to the winter chills” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

A brilliantly conceived Agatha Christie-style whodunnit that recalls films like Clue, Murder by Death, and The Last of Sheila” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

It’s been a very long time since we’ve had a truly great whodunnit. [Rian Johnson’s] delightfully arch entry takes the challenge and knocks it out of the damn park” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

There’s a rule of thumb in comedies — the more fun the cast and crew seem to be having, the less joy is left over for the audience. But [this] is that rare exception” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Queen & Slim (dir. Melina Matsoukas)

You can watch the film as a social allegory in the age of #BlackLivesMatter – it certainly won’t mind. But it also operates on the simpler level of an exciting action flick with more than a little romance in the mix; Bonnie and Clyde if they’d been acting in self-defence” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Provocatively tackles racialized violence with its story of two lovers on the lam in #BlackLivesMatter-era America” — Pat Mullen, Sharp Magazine, who interviewed Lena Waithe for the piece

Has more than a few dialogue clangers and narrative contrivances — how could a guy forget his wallet twice in the space of 10 minutes? — but the felicitous pairing of Turner-Smith and Kaluuya makes the flaws easy to forgive” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Waithe’s writing tends to pack in meaning and melodrama to a fault. Plot machinations drag down those beautifully quiet, intimate scenes where her characters can just groove together” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Stand! (dir. Robert Adetuyi) 🇨🇦

If you’ve ever wondered what a Heritage Minute would look and sound like if stretched to almost two hours, then step right up for Stand!, a movie musical based on the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919” — Chris Knight, The National Post

As much a public service as it is a movie” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A small but effective movie that’s worth a look” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

The Two Popes (dir. Fernando Meirelles)

Its title and subject might lead to the assumption of a movie designed for the pious and destined for church basements or Sunday morning TV. On the contrary, this is a crowd-pleaser for believers and agnostics alike” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Won’t restore one’s faith in the Catholic Church. But it will thrill audiences with its invigorating debate about an institution in crisis. In short, it will preserve one’s faith in moviegoing” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

A rarity — an important true-life religious story, an intellectual and elegant psychological thriller with massive scale and palpable intimacy” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

It’s been 600 years since the last time the world was home to more than one living Pope. And 40 since the last time a movie about religion has been this funny” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Not an especially good movie about papal succession and the state of the modern Catholic Church, but it does feature Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins enjoying themselves immensely in luxurious surroundings, so factor that into your thinking” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

See it for the performances by Hopkins and Pryce” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Varda by Agnès (dir. Agnès Varda)

A master class on filmmaking by the late, great Agnès Varda, by way of a tour of her 64 years behind and in front of the lens, as a leading force of the French New Wave” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A manifesto that handily advocates for both better people and more insightful filmmaking” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

If you’ve never seen an Agnès Varda movie, her last film could be a good place to either start or finish your journey into her formidable filmography” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

After making films for over half a century, her childlike sense of wonder for cinema is as evident as ever” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Agnès Varda, who died in March, aged 90, shot this documentary in her final year – though in many ways she was working on it her entire life” — Chris Knight, The National Post

On screen, she seems immortal — and very much alive” — Bill Chambers, Film Freak Central

Follow her here to China, California, Belgium where she sat on a beach and admitted she hurt everywhere; even that didn’t quell her joie de vivre” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

The great pleasures of this doc are found in the little intricacies that made Varda the artist she was” — Gilbert Seah, Toronto-Franco

Vita & Virginia (dir. Chanya Button)

In the Globe and Mail, director Chanya Button tells Nathalie Atkinson how she’s hoping to introduce Virginia Woolf to a younger generation with her impressionistic film, now on VOD

Remembering John Kastner

In POV Magazine, Marc Glassman remembers the Toronto-based documentary filmmaker — the “Dostoevsky of documentary” — who passed away last week