Reviews include Akilla’s Escape, In the Heights, and New Order.
TFCA Friday: Week of Sept. 18
September 18, 2020
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics.
Heading into the final weekend of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, our members offer some final tips:
Peter Howell lists his top ten picks for best of the fest at the Toronto Star.
Jason Gorber at BlogTO speculates which films have the best shot at winning this year’s People’s Choice Award.
There may have been lots of excitement with films like Nomadland and Pieces of a Woman drawing raves, but the first weekend at TIFF wasn’t business as usual, reports Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. He also talks with the Elevation Pictures team about their strategy amid the pandemic and learns that French Exit didn’t get into TIFF.
At least half the recipients and presenters looked as if they washed their hair or showered before the Zoomed-in TIFF Tribute Awards. Find out who wore their Sunday best and who was one their way to the gym in recaps from Linda Barnard at Original Cin and Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
The stars also came out for some press conferences with Jim Slotek reporting on Naomi Watts and the scene-stealing magpie of Penguin Bloom, Linda Barnard getting in the saddle with Concrete Cowboy‘s Idris Elba, and Liam Lacey recapping the great conversation between Denzel Washington and Barry Levinson.
Thom Ernst at Original Cin chats with Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowksy about the challenges with winnowing down this year’s selections.
Speaking of Midnight Madness, Pat Mullen at That Shelf speaks with Violation directors Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli about their twisted revenge thriller.
On the documentary front at POV Magazine, Mullen also has interviews with The New Corporation‘s Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, Sing Me a Lullaby‘s Tiffany Hsiung, and Point and Line to Plane‘s due Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell, while Jason Gorber chats about dog cams and documenting the delicious with the team from The Truffle Hunters.
Jennie Punter at Variety profiles Inconvenient Indian and Trickster director Michelle Latimer, TIFF’s breakout talent.
In Release this Week
Antebellum (dir. Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz)
“After a while of playing connect-the-reference-dots, you may seriously start to ask yourself, ‘why am I watching simulations of Black people being abused for this long?’ when a phone rings off-screen,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
“If you figure out the twist early on, Antebellum is a tedious, obvious, and barely thrilling slog that treats its audience like they’re a bunch of fools,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate. “It’s like watching an edgy, brooding magician repeatedly failing to sell the audience on a trick gone wrong while still maintaining an act that suggests everything is fine.”
“A twist arrives about 40 minutes in, I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s an insane ride,” exclaims Anne Brodie, What She Said.
Blackbird (dir. Roger Michell)
“Yes, Blackbird is manipulative,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “It’s stocked with Big Chill-like moments of irreverent humour, spontaneous sing-alongs, collaborative kitchen clean-ups, and stolen moments of thoughtful reprieve.”
“The script seems too perfectly written and the characters all utter perfect responses and they have answers to every problem,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Throughout, Sarandon plays Lily as a strong, fully capable woman, and that performance never wavers in favour of cheap theatrics. She holds court over this stacked cast of actors like a screen general,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
The Devil All the Time (dir. Antonio Campos)
“Was born just to be buried,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
At The Gate, Andrew Parker says, “In a vacuum, the individual elements of The Devil All the Time are rather good, but without at least six more hours to gently nurture and finesse all of these threads and emotions, Campos’ film comes across like a chaotic, exhausting mess where things happen simply because there wouldn’t be a movie if they didn’t.”
H Is for Happiness (dir. John Sheedy)
“Silly, quirky, optimistic, colourful and buoyant, the Australian family comedy H is for Happiness will delight younger kids and offer just enough dramatic tension to ensure adults don’t get too bored.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate.
I’ve Got Issues (dir. Steve Collins)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it a “sillier and more senseless film with the same tone as Waiting for Guffman.”
Last Call (dir. Gavin Michael Booth) 🇨🇦
“Last Call is an ambitious, but unpretentious Canadian drama built around a gimmick that has fallen flat on its face for other filmmakers, but works rather well for the subdued and sad story being told here,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Nadia Butterfly (dir. Pascal Plante) 🇨🇦
Brian D. Johnson at Macleans speaks with director Pascal Plante and swimmer-turned-star Katerine Savard about capturing the thrill of swimming on film, and how they fell about COVID cancelling their Cannes premiere.
“Writer/director (and former competitive swimmer!) Pascal Plante has a keen eye for what goes on behind the scenes in the world of aquatic sports,” notes Chris Knight at The National Post.
“Nadia, Butterfly has a unique lived-in sensation that films about young people rarely do,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto observes, “a sort of a grin-and-bear it bore (the film’s technique already made too familiar by Laurent Cantet) with just a little bit of lift, aided by the cast.”
Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail writes, “Arriving in Canadian theatres this week without the anticipated Cannes buzz, the film is not quite a medallist.”
The Nest (dir. Sean Durkin) 🇨🇦
“If it is possible for one actor alone to save 2020 — a big if, I realize — then maybe we can crown Jude Law as some kind of pandemic-era panacea,” argues Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
At The Gate, Andrew Parker writes, “The Nest is a work of great delicacy and pain, led by two exceptionally matched actors working at the peak of their abilities.”
Gilbert Seah calls the film “a solid fable on the importance of a contented nest” at Afro Toronto.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie interviews director Sean Durkin and calls the film “Ibsen on meth.”
“Durkin’s filmmaking cleverness comes from realizing that the movie doesn’t need to go that far, to tip the balance and slide into the supernatural,” writes Chris Knight at The National Post.
Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story (dir. Roy Tighe) 🇨🇦
“Lett is not portrayed as a man in pain hiding behind a veil of comedy; he’s a man who wields his pain like a flame thrower burning through everything in his path,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin.
Residue (dir. Merawi Gerima)
In a five-star review at The Guardian, Radheyan Simonpillai writes, “As if resigned to the inevitable, the film documents black culture in the city as if it needs to be fossilized on camera.”
The Way I See It (dir. Dawn Porter)
At The National Post, Chris Knight says, “[A]s a look back at a less frenzied time in American politics – no allegations of sexual assault, porn-star payoffs, anti-science rants, excessive golfing, racism or impeachment – The Way I See It is a fun historical time capsule.”
“Dawn Porter has made a doc of compelling immediacy and power,” writes Marc Glassman at POV Magazine.
“It’s a timely, nostalgic, and carefully crafted look at a previously apolitical journalist who has looked at what’s become of the world today and grown increasingly concerned, disillusioned, and moved to the point of advocacy,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Cuties, Ratched, and other Fests
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz unpacks the recent Netflix Cuties controversy and suggests that Erin O’Toole’s future as a TV critic is just as poor as his shot at Prime Minister.
Pat Mullen at That Shelf seems goes all-in for Ratched and says Sarah Paulson outdoes Louise Fletcher’s take on the iconic character. At What She Said, Anne Brodie calls Ryan Murphy’s new series “a corker; raunchy, colourful, horrific.”
At NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner speaks with director Kire Pireputts and learns why it’s do hard to find The Last Porno Show on VOD.