BIFF19 REVIEW: Buffaloed [2020]

Debt never dies. Leave it to an actual Buffalonian to write a screenplay set in the city without one mention or frame of snow. Only they know what else the Queen City has to offer above cheap jokes about blizzards and cold because they’ve grown up amongst the eccentric characters found in every corner bar or Bills game that can hate the person next to them despite still supplying a high-five if a touchdown is scored. So when Brian Sacca mocks the chicken wing feuds (Anchor Bar or Duffs?), fandom,…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Clover [2020]

You don’t kill your friends. It wasn’t wise to borrow money from local mobster Tony Davolio (Chazz Palminteri), but brothers Mickey (Jon Abrahams) and Jackie (Mark Webber) didn’t have a choice. Running a bar isn’t easy these days and the added pressure of trying to keep one afloat after generations of family ownership forces their hands to make a deal with the Devil. After a shared history allows for a single extension on payment without increasing the vig, Jackie decides to gamble what they owe (recouped in full) the night…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: The True Adventures of Wolfboy [2020]

That’s some … kind of beautiful. Denny (Chris Messina) tells his teenage son Paul (Jaeden Martell) to stand tall with dignity and never run away. Meant as inspiration with a sympathetic heart, these words fall flat because he’s trying to solve the wrong problem—his inability to truly understand Paul’s uniquely personal perspective leading him astray. Denny wants to believe the knit mask covering his boy’s face is a means to hide from the world because his goal is to protect his child from the terrible things ignorant people say and…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Crown Vic [2019]

The world was dark when I got here. The title of writer/director Joel Souza‘s Crown Vic is a stand-in for “old school.” It’s a connection to a past that guys with twenty-five years on the job like Ray Mandel (Thomas Jane) feels fading away. And they’re correct. As new technologies arrive, oversight increases and a beat cops’ freedom to maneuver disappears. Like most complicated examples of progress, however, this is neither wholly good nor bad. We can believe that hyper aggressive racial profilers are a rarity in police forces rather…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Malaisia [2019]

This side of the Mississippi. There’s a joke told about a third of the way through Mac Cappuccino‘s film Malaisia. It’s bad. Jay Schmidt is the one laying out the excessive amount of exposition while his compatriot (Kevin Guzewich) looks on in exasperation—at one point even interrupting his interminable drone with an interjection to break up the monotony. On and on it goes and we’re unsure what to think as viewers since we haven’t even seen these two characters since the very first scene wherein the roles were reversed and…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: The Sympathy Card [2019]

Consider it a death-bed order. It’s an unorthodox but sweetly unsurprising premise: the cancer-stricken Emma (Petey J. Gibson) demands her wife Josie (Nika Ezell Pappas) meet someone new so she won’t become a lonely widow without love. This turn of events doesn’t surprise because writer/director Brendan Boogie already presented the unbelievably awkward way in which their relationship began. Emma is therefore right to worry the odds aren’t in their favor that Josie absentmindedly elbows another unsuspecting match in the nose to break the ice and ignite a guilt-fueled confidence that…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Frances Ferguson [2019]

Was this breaking the law? We never meet the narrator (Nick Offerman) of Bob Byington‘s film Frances Ferguson. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing or uncommon, but I couldn’t shake the idea that we should. It’s because he isn’t some omnisciently objective voice telling us a story. He interjects opinions, giggles, and often meanders to the point where his subject (Kaley Wheless‘ Frances) must speak up to help him along. In one instance he mentions a “We” as though his (and another’s) entrance on-screen was imminent. It’s not. He means…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: The Fan Connection [2019]

This is hockey heaven. Buffalo sports fans are die-hard. Go to most big cities across America and you’ll find a Queen City backers’ bar of ex-pats communing to enjoy (and, this past decade, lament) the teams they grew up watching beside their parents. It doesn’t take long for the electricity and excitement to flood back upon returning home either whether for new job opportunities or a weekend vacation—something Mary Wall discovered by watching her hometown Sabres’ wild NHL playoff run in 2006 while on her two-month hiatus from working as…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem [2019]

It is the hardest thing to walk away from. Everything in this world comes down to control and that’s what makes the work being done by minority classes (gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc.) so important today. When those in power look the same (white, male, old), there’s little room to want to look outside their sphere of influence and recognize their impact upon anyone else but themselves. That’s where the manipulations come in and why they’ve become as easy to perform as breathing. And it all compounds in the case…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Rendezvous in Chicago [2019]

The whole point of this game is to look. There’s a reason the first word in Michael Glover Smith‘s triptych Rendezvous in Chicago isn’t pluralized despite consisting of three distinct stories. It stems from the fact that Smith sought to close out his cinematic trilogy about on-screen relationships and communications within (Cool Apocalypse and Mercury in Retrograde are the others) with the three possible stages of a romantic union. Rather than call each chapter a rendezvous, the title is referring to our engagement with them as the beginning, middle, and…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: This is Not a Movie [2019]

This is where the match was lit. The reason Yung Chang picked This is Not a Movie for the title of his documentary on renowned journalist Robert Fisk stems from his subject’s inspiration for pursuing that line of work. Fisk talks about watching Alfred Hitchcock‘s Foreign Correspondent as a boy and thinking its lead led a life of excitement that most people only ever dream about. So he pursued the career despite parents wishing for another direction (before their pride of having a son at The London Times kicked in)…

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