REVIEW: 大鱼海棠 [Dayu haitang] [Big Fish & Begonia] [2016]

“Without happiness, what’s the meaning of longevity?” In 2004, directors Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang created a Flash animation for an online contest. From there they would expand it into a feature length film steeped in Chinese supernatural legend. And despite some funding snags over its twelve-year production schedule, 大鱼海棠 [Dayu haitang] [Big Fish & […]

REVIEW: Liyana [2018]

“And you are going to tell her story” There’s multiple ways to tell stories depending on the message you wish to instill. So when the subject you’re tackling concerns a country like Swaziland with a rampant AIDS epidemic and the resulting insanely high orphanage rate, you can choose a path towards the stark futility of […]

REVIEW: Revolting Rhymes Part One [2016]

“They’re just stories. You know … for children.” Have you ever listened to a fairy tale and lamented the poor villains simply trying to survive? You hear “Little Red Riding Hood” and think about how the wolf is operating by instinct. He sees a potential meal and using cunning ingenuity does all he can to […]

REVIEW: Negative Space [2017]

“Perfect” We all hold onto a specific memory of someone close upon his/her death—a moment or moments special to us despite being uneventful to everyone else. Our relationship with the person defines what it is subconsciously. It could be a song, a movie, a vacation spent together, or perhaps even one spent apart. It can […]

REVIEW: Garden Party [2017]

Just when we think a large amphibian covered in caviar and salivating at a glass jar of cookies inside a deserted mansion will be the most memorable shot of Garden Party—a French short directed by committee (Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Victor Caire, Théophile Dufresne, Gabriel Grapperon, and Lucas Navarro)—the sextet leaves us with an image […]

REVIEW: Dear Basketball [2017]

“I did everything for you” “Money” is a word used to describe Kobe Bryant the athlete because he was the guy you gave the ball to with no time on the clock. Everyone could rely on him whether coach, teammate, or fan because we knew the chances were that a good look at the hoop […]

REVIEW: この世界の片隅に [Kono sekai no katasumi ni] [In This Corner of the World] [2016]

“Was I always daydreaming?” It’s starts as a cutely surreal slice of life in 1930s Japan as Suzu (Non) and her flights of fancy take the spotlight. The young girl loves to draw and daydream—the latter often leaving her with time lost in a place unknown. At one point she even finds herself with a […]

REVIEW: Coco [2017]

“Seize your moment” Disney and Pixar have lately begun to tell more stories that aren’t intrinsically linked to their white male sensibilities (even if they have a tendency to push out voices that should be talking for their characters like Brenda Chapman on Brave). It’s definitely an evolutionary process—one that might actually be helped with […]

REVIEW: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure [2017]

“Tell us yours and we’ll tell you if it’s special enough” A short film like Olaf’s Frozen Adventure epitomizes the law of diminishing returns: for audiences, not Disney. The studio is surely making a ton of merchandise money with little work involved considering the characters are already at their disposal. We’re talking a couple directors, […]

REVIEW: Loving Vincent [2017]

“Life can even bring down the strong” The stats are incredible: 125 artists animating a feature-length film over seven years based on 800 personal letters with 65,000 individually-painted oil frames. You read those numbers and wonder if it was worth the trouble when a traditionally shot narrative featuring its faux “rotoscoped” actors would have been […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: The Breadwinner [2017]

“Everything changes. That’s what stories tell us.” In the Taliban-controlled Afghan city of Kabul, Nora Twomey‘s debut film as sole director (she co-helmed Oscar nominee The Secret of Kells) depicts an eleven-year old girl facing the futility her future inevitably holds. Adapted by Anita Doron from the award-winning novel by Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner delivers […]