ANOMALY19 REVIEW: Bacurau [2019]

A feast of fear and terror. It’s been awhile since Teresa (Bárbara Colen) last stepped foot in Bacurau, the small Brazilian village where she was born. Escape has proven the only way to become known outside of one’s neighbors since those who remain entrenched by choice (or necessity) are more or less the sole providers of their own survival. This notion might have begun in the abstract with the obvious contrast between a big city like São Paulo and their humble abode, but it’s been made overtly true with food…

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OIFF19 REVIEW: Advocate [2019]

It’s always heavy. The crucial truth within Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche‘s documentary Advocate arrives courtesy of their subject Lea Tsemel. She explains how there will be no end to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians until a human understanding of the motives can be reached. Israel’s staunch stance as the unequivocal victim was a lie from the beginning since we all know about the number of people that were displaced upon its creation. So to blindly accept their designation of Palestine as a terrorist community rather than a…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Online Billie [2019]

It’s simple until it all gets complicated. Despite opening Online Billie with a glimpse of the titular camgirl (Valentine Payen-Wicaksono‘s Esther/”Billie”) engaged in a chat room session, she’s not the lead character. Director Lou Assous and co-writer Xavier Bazoge have very clearly created her as a hypothetical instead—a test with which their surrogate in the story (Baptiste Lorber‘s Jules) can confront his biases and wrap his head around the revelation that the woman he’s falling for is a sex worker. This isn’t inherently a problem for the whole considering his…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Working Man [2019]

It’s just something I need to do. The title Working Man only deals with one aspect of Robert Jury‘s film about the effects of a rust belt town’s last factory closing. Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) is a “working man,” but his breaking-in to continue working without pay while his neighbors (also laid-off) think he’s gone crazy isn’t a product of compulsion. No, he does this because it’s the best excuse he has to escape home. As the opening prologue alludes with Allery calling his son’s name to no avail, this…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Foosballers [2019]

“It was truly like a religion” Sports documentaries are generally allowed to make some assumptions. Talk about baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer can gloss over the structural details and rulebooks because those coming to watch a story about a certain player or team are already fans of the game itself. When you move into a fringe sport in the vein of foosball, however, filmmakers like Joe Heslinga can’t afford that luxury. So he and writer Mike Wagstaffe must find a balance between the personalities of the top players, the…

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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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