Noah Baumbach has created some amazing films, films that have cemented him as one of the great directors of his generation. I remember watching Frances Ha and thinking that this was his best film and that it would take a while for him to do better. Well, Marriage Story did that for me. It’s Baumbach at his best, his strongest. His steady hand is felt throughout and he never falters, navigating the film expertly and creating a devastating look at divorce and how it breaks everyone, even those with the best intention. Baumbach’s craft has never been this tight and it showcases how much he has grown as a filmmaker since his debut. Marriage Story is, in my opinion, his best work to date.
Leading up to May of 2015, I kept hearing about a film called Spring, and it was described as Lovecraft meets the Before trilogy. Anybody who knows me should know this is a film calling my name. I remember missing out a screening of Mad Max Fury Road to see both Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead introduce Spring at a screening in Toronto. Even when the fire alarm went off in the theatre, I still hold that screening close to my heart. In a way, without Spring, there wouldn’t be no Film Queue or no UnderSCENE, or even a version of me who has fallen for film criticism. I have followed their growth as I’ve tried to grow as a writer, and that’s why it pains me to say that Synchronic was their first big-budget film was a (minor) miss.
The film opens in a room straight out of the 1950s and it’s filled with colour, as we watch a small tv that begins its black and white broadcast. It’s a program that has opening narration akin to The Twilight Zone, or Outer Limits or any science fiction based anthology show from the same time period. The program was called Paradox Theatre, and tonight’s episode was The Vast of Night. Using this as a framing device set up the film perfectly and told me exactly what type of film I was about to watch, but it didn’t tell me it would become my favourite movie of the festival.
I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers, he wasn’t someone we watched in Quebec. So I didn’t know anything about it, or barely anything until I sat down last year to watch the incredible documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? By the end, I left the theatre in tears and nothing but love for a man that I didn’t grow up watching. And then, Marielle Heller, who directed the great Can You Ever Forgive Me? from last year, was announced to be directing a film about Mr. Rogers with Tom Hanks attached and I was in. Well, let me tell you something, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a beautiful love letter to the man himself. In Heller’s hands, the film becomes so much more then it could.
I don’t think anybody can ever be remotely ready for a film by the Safdie brothers. We might make an exception if you’ve already seen the film, but let’s make it clear, Good Time does not become an easier watch on a second watch and I can’t imagine the same being the case with their Adam Sandler led film Uncut Gems.
Bad Education is wild. I don’t know how to really describe it because it’s such a bonker concept and yet, it’s real. Something that actually happened where taxpayers’ money was used for years and years by the school administrators. The only reason why this story broke? A high school student poked around and discovered the truth. Written by Mike Makowsky, who actually went to the Roslyn High School when it happened and directed by Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds), Bad Education blends drama and comedy perfectly in a film that once it gets going it’s unstoppable.
When Hustlers was first announced as part of the line up for TIFF, many raised an eyebrow. All we had really to base our expectations for the film was a trailer that, after watching the film, doesn’t do justice to the film itself. Based on an article published in New York magazine in 2015 from Jessica Pressler titled The Hustlers at Scores, Hustlers tells the story of Dorothy (Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu), a stripper in New York City who with her mentor and friend Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) find themselves going from stripping to stealing from Wall Street guys during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. Smart and empowering, Hustlers takes an out-there story that seems implausible and creates a film full of fully-formed women that take no prisoners.
For a long time growing up, horror films were not for me. I would run from the room as my uncle would try and force me to watch one, and then out of the blue, that all changed and I ate up as much as horror as I can get my hands on. So halfway through The Vigil, a scare happened that made me question myself why I do this to myself, time after time.
Sports films are really formulaic, you know what you are getting but that’s not always a bad thing. Especially when you put James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 to Yuma), you might elevate it enough to make a decent film that entertains you just enough to look past its flaws, at least for a little while. It’s entertaining, a bit long but anchored by a great cast that creates compelling characters. A film that will entertain the masses, Ford v Ferrari is nothing extraordinary but it’s also extremely sweet and moving.
Growing up, DC comics meant a lot to me. They were what I read and loved, those nights spent in the dark, hiding and reading what I had bought or found are memories I will always cherish. DC films haven’t always been the best but I stick with them because they stay linked to these childhood memories that I will always remember. The thing about Joker is that we are asked to sympathize with a character that has always just been evil. The Joker never had any reason to be the way he is, he simply was and that’s what made him so scary and such a foe to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. But with this film, Todd Philips tries to make the figure a man that is broken and bullied into becoming the formidable foe. This brings us a film that is slow-paced and frankly boring. In the end, it simply doesn’t work.