REVIEW: Needle in a Timestack [2021]

Happiness is the only thing more fleeting than time. For a movie about a fated love (Leslie Odom Jr.‘s Nick and Cynthia Erivo‘s Janine) being undermined by a jealous ex (Orlando Bloom‘s Tommy), I didn’t expect to witness a scene towards the beginning wherein the latter philosophically (and selfishly) attempts to legitimize his sabotage by explaining how every love is, by definition, another’s missed opportunity. He points out a random woman in the bar and tells Nick that whomever she falls for will be the lucky one of millions, setting…

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REVIEW: Gûzen to sôzô [Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy] [2021]

Maybe it’s the loss of someone I believed was mine. Everyone lives through a series of choices. Some are buoyed by the happiness of having always chosen correctly (or at least the privilege of never having to wonder if the other choice would have provided greater happiness) and some weighed down by regret. There are other times too, however, that people may find themselves existing in a moment where happiness becomes inextricably linked to regret. Perhaps it’s only through pushing yourself to the brink of self-destruction that you finally realize…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Ich bin dein Mensch [I’m Your Man] [2021]

Your eyes are like two mountain lakes I could sink into. Writer/director Maria Schrader‘s Ich bin dein Mensch [I’m Your Man] posits the question: What if Weird Science, but real? That’s not to say the conceit she and co-writer Jan Schomburg have created (from a short story by Emma Braslavsky) isn’t science fiction fantasy. I just mean that their romantic comedy isn’t saddled by the puerile male gaze of an 80s sex romp. It uses its skeptical lead character (Maren Eggert‘s ancient language specialist Alma) to confront the scenario she’s…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: A feleségem története [The Story of My Wife] [2021]

You must accommodate life or else it will punish you. It was a joke. Captain Jakob Störr (Gijs Naber) is cajoled into meeting his con artist friend Kodor (Sergio Rubini) at a fancy restaurant while on shore leave to help spy on a business partner double-crossing him. Störr had recently been told by his ship’s cook that the stone in his gut was a longing for love rather than food poisoning, so Kodor’s prompt for fake small talk inevitably leads to the captain declaring his need for a wife. The…

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FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Baby, Don’t Cry [2021]

You still have a chance. Baby (Zita Bai) is a seventeen-year-old Chinese immigrant surviving on the fringes of her community. She’s a voyeur—always with camera on to capture the dialogue and actions of others so that she can better mimic how it is that she should act to “fit in.” That she also photographs animal carcasses and death with excitement might make that sort of assimilation tough, but she’s not really interested in those that would dismiss such a thing without context. It’s not until she meets Fox (Vas Provatakis)…

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FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Sukutte goran [Love, Life and Goldfish] [2021]

It was uplifting to some extent. There are two types of people in this world. Those who find a ninety-minute romantic comedy musical with a ninety-second song serving as an intermission break twee and those who find it charming. Middle ground doesn’t exist in this equation and director Yukinori Makabe rightfully refuses to pretend otherwise. His film Sukutte goran [Love, Life and Goldfish] (adapted by Atsumi Tsuchi from Noriko Otani‘s manga of the same name) wears its idiosyncratic feel-good sentimentality on its sleeve to provide the dreamlike environment Makoto Kashiba…

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REVIEW: Rare Beasts [2021]

I still love and respect myself. I love this line from the director notes of Billie Piper‘s Rare Beasts: “When you live through nihilism/cynicism/hopelessness, your view of the world is not necessarily as it is, but rather your projection [of it].” She’s speaking about the frank tone and dialogue of the heightened world she’s constructed on-screen as writer/director/star, but she could also be talking about the lens in which we now view our own world via social media. You could say Piper has chosen the trending topic of “romantic love”…

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REVIEW: Moffie [2020]

You are no longer someone. There’s no better propaganda machine than the military. But while that institution generally wields its power upon those who willingly embrace its messaging, not every country relies on volunteers to fill their ranks. For countries like South Africa during Apartheid, conscription became a way to retain white minority control. Why? Because it ensured that every able white male would receive a steady dose of its racist and bigoted rhetoric for at least two years. Rather than preach to the choir, the Afrikaners could brainwash every…

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REVIEW: Funny Face [2021]

Maybe I have to do more. One person’s garbage is another’s treasure … or something like that. And if Tim Sutton‘s Funny Face is any indication, there’s no place in the world who understands those sentiments more than Brooklyn, New York. Whether we’re talking about rundown homes where impoverished families survive being torn down for a shiny new parking lot or a once great basketball team making you wonder if the owners are lifelong fans of its greatest rivals desperately trying to ensure they never make the playoffs again or…

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REVIEW: Happily [2021]

I could have made that omelet. I can’t tell you how many times a friend has come up to me with a story that positions their significant other as the proverbial albatross around their neck with a look that screams, “Amirite?” only to have me shrug, smile, and reply, “I don’t know. I actually like my partner.” I only partially say this in jest because I do hope they’ll hear those words and rethink their situation—their refusal to acknowledge their own part in their problems, the possibility that their relationship…

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REVIEW: Blithe Spirit [2021]

Divine intervention. Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens) is plagued by writer’s block—so much so that his wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) talked her film producer father (Simon Kunz‘s Henry Mackintosh) into paying him to adapt his best-selling detective novel debut into a screenplay. The hope is that an easy task without the need for new ideas will get the creative (and sexual) juices flowing again so that they can push their beds together and maybe even cross the Atlantic to Hollywood. No matter how supportive Ruth has been, however, Charles still can’t…

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