• Online Film Critics Society Ballot 2017

    Below is my December 24th ballot for the 21st annual Online Film Critics Society Awards honoring movies released domestically in the United States during the 2017 calendar year. Group winners are highlighted in red. (We were only allowed to vote for one nominee per category this year, but I ranked them all like previous years […]

  • REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name [2017]

    “‘Cause I wanted you to know” It wasn’t until three-quarters of the way through Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name that I finally began to understand the almost universal praise bestowed upon it since debuting at Sundance. Up until then it merely felt like a familiar coming-of-age film wherein the teenager in question was […]

  • REVIEW: The Work [2017]

    “Go inside to go outside” It’s one thing for a maximum-security prison full of violent offenders like Folsom to offer the type of in-depth therapy sessions it does, but it’s another to see the number of inmates with the courage and desire to attend. To be willing to leave your gang affiliations at the door […]

  • REVIEW: Unrest [2017]

    “I just thought I would have more time” You can tell a lot about someone with the question: “What are your thoughts on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)?” The answer is “Yes” or “No” and yet the latter has the potential of holding an infinite number of biases stemming from the likes […]

  • 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 […]

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film reviews

REVIEW: Elizabeth Blue [2017]

“Mental illness doesn’t need to be treated like a dirty secret” It’s highly disconcerting yet unsurprising that many Baby Boomers now in their sixties and seventies still see mental illness as a weakness. Talk about the scenarios that young people of today face and they dismiss them as a generational thing, a liberalization of society […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Licht [Mademoiselle Paradis] [2017]

“If you cannot see, you are not seen” Maria Theresia von Paradis was the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa’s Court Councilor and thus a young woman of standing despite the blindness that took her eyes before the age of five. Her father Joseph Anton and mother Maria Rosalia had the means to therefore teach her […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Soldatii. Poveste din Ferentari [Soldiers. Story From Ferentari] [2017]

“Come here before I get angry” Based on lead actor Adrian Schiop‘s fictionalized biography, Ivana Mladenovic‘s Soldatii. Poveste din Ferentari [Soldiers. Story From Ferentari] shows a world of poverty and futility possessing few avenues of escape for those born within. Schiop’s character Adi arrives at the Bucharest ghetto known as Ferentari to study its people’s […]

REVIEW: Kingsman: The Golden Circle [2017]

“There’s no room for emotion in this scenario” When Kingsman: The Secret Service debuted, comparisons to creator Mark Millar‘s other comic book to cinematic adaptation Kick-Ass were obvious. How the latter spun the superhero template, the former spun stylish James Bond-type spy actioners. It was all high-concept insanity with a kid from the wrong side […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Lady Bird [2017]

“Love and attention” After a string of critical hits hinging upon her trademarked quirk as self-absorbed twenty-somethings trying to cut a path in life, Greta Gerwig has decided to transpose that template onto a tale of teenage angst with her directorial debut Lady Bird. The first step was finding a kindred spirit in Saoirse Ronan […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Disobedience [2018]

“We must then choose the tangled lives we live” It starts with a London-based rabbi speaking from his heart about the complexities of life. He stammers through—obviously ailing—until collapse. Suddenly we’re in New York City watching a photographer in-session with tattooed seniors. The phone rings and we know. She (Rachel Weisz‘s Ronit Krushka) is the […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Kodachrome [2018]

“A hole that can’t be filled” The world doesn’t need another film about an irredeemable artist who forsook his wife and child for his art only to begrudgingly (and fearfully through too many years ravaged by narcissistic cynicism) seek a second chance on his deathbed. We’d accept one if it did something different, though. Maybe […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Chappaquiddick [2018]

“Sometimes the path you’re on isn’t always the path you choose” It was always funny to think of Ted Kennedy as “the other Kennedy.” How could you not? Despite his long tenure as Massachusetts Senator, he wasn’t “anointed” like Jack or Bobby. He tried and failed to secure a presidential nomination, but even if he […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Motorrad [2017]

“How did you get past the wall?” You won’t find a better locale for a film than Serra da Canastra in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Its rocky landscapes and serene hills are gorgeous, their quiet solemnity a perfect contrast to the loud gas-guzzling motorcycles director Vicente Amorim has roaming their dirt paths in Motorrad. The only […]

REVIEW: Red Trees [2017]

“A Mr. Hitler is in power, but it’s the vending machines that I recall” If yours were one of only twelve Jewish families in all of Prague to survive World War II, you’d do your best to move forward despite the memories of death, fear, and oppression that marked you in a way no one […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: Downrange [2017]

“How’d your passengers turn out? Any weirdos?” A car slams on its breaks at the pop of a flat. Inside is Todd (Rod Hernandez) and Sara (Alexa Yeames), a young couple toting around a bunch of strangers who pitched in gas money to reach everyone’s shared destination. Putting on the spare this SUV is thankfully […]

REVIEW: Columbus [2017]

“You grow up around something and it feels like nothing” I’m not sure there’s a better art form than architecture to really let first-time writer/director Kogonada feel at home behind the camera. The man who made his name with video “supercuts” showing aesthetic through-lines of auteurs like Terrence Malick, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Yasujirô […]

REVIEW: mother! [2017]

“His words are yours” Paramount has taken pains to ensure you know as little about Darren Aronofsky‘s mother! as possible. I know this because they’ve made it very difficult to find any images with which to populate this review. Their press site has no entry. The Toronto International Film Festival site contains no stills. And […]

TIFF17 REVIEW: A Worthy Companion [2017]

“You don’t deserve any of it” Capturing the complexity of abuse is tough to accomplish when mainstream audiences clamor for black and white delineations between predator and prey. Some go the horror route for metaphorical terror focusing on the pursuer while others go dramatic for the helplessness of a victim unable to break free. Writer/directors […]

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 […]