TIFF NEXT WAVE 2021 kicks-off later this week, running Friday, February 12-15, 2021. Celebrating youth-oriented films and programming, the Festival adapts to a virtual format this year, allowing for safe, pyjama-comfort enjoyment right from home!
Our Justin Waldman (@DubsReviews) got to preview some of the most-anticipated titles of the Festival and here are some of his thoughts.
DEATH OF NINTENDO
Death of Nintendo has a lot right going for it, including ’90s nostalgia. The Movie focuses on a group of teenage boys living in Manila, taking place before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, with a heavy dose of Nintendo throwback, as this group comes into their own identity.
The Film focuses on Paolo (Noel Comia Jr), Kachi (John Vincent Servilla), and Gilligan (Jiggerfelip Sementilla) who are all friends trying to come into their own. At once, they are escaping their own individual issues whether they be problems at home, heartbreak, or not being satisfied with what they have. Everyone is trying to overcome their own personal issues/demons. Their greatest escape is playing Nintendo and being able to escape into their own world, something we might know a thing or two about right now.
Death of Nintendo has some excellent performances from its trio of leads. The universally relatable story by Valerie Castillo Martinez and direction from Raya Martin help these stories excel. The future looks bright for everyone featured here. Death of Nintendo does fall into some coming of age tropes, but the high points are definitely worth the journey.
DEATH OF NINTENDO premieres at TIFF Next Wave Friday, February 12,2021.
Leonie Krippendroff’s Berlin-set Feature Cocoon takes place in the summer of ’18 with themes of exploration, discovery, and change. The Film boasts some fantastic performances from its Cast. This is a beautiful story of self-discovery.
Nora (Lena Urzendowsky) follows her sister Jule (Lena Klenke) around, along with her friend Aylin (Elina Vildanova). Nora endures a horrific accident in school. Retreating to the bathroom in complete embarrassment, she meets Romy (Jella Hasse) and discovers that she feels for Romy, realizing she isn’t interested in boys and vying for their attention, like Jule and Aylin.
Cocoon is metaphoric of the awakening Nora goes through, but also applies to the breakout performances in this Film. There is something so genuine and captivating about Urzendowsky and Hasse’s work that transcends the screen.
COCOON premieres at TIFF Next WaveSaturday, February 13, 2021.
There are a lot of uncomfortable things that occur in this directorial Feature debut from Olivia Peace and first Screenplay by Jess Zeidman. However, Tahara handles some serious subject matter with a bit of levity and comedy, making it a bit tragic, comedic, yet undeniably brilliant.
Tahara takes place in Rochester, NY at a funeral service/Hebrew school. It revolves around a few friends, love interests and classmates as they mourn the passing of their fellow classmate. The Film focuses on Hannah (Rachel Sennott) and Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece) as they explore their sexual abilities with each other, so Hannah can make a move on Tristan (Daniel Taveras). Carrie and Hannah realize there might be more to their friendship than initially thought, and things become awkward between them.
Both Sennott and DeFreece deliver fantastic performances with a great, emotion-filled comedic punch. Their chemistry also breaks the tension of the backdrop of the story, losing a classmate at such a young age. Zeidman’s Script delivers, with Peace’s direction focused. This is a must-see!
TAHARA premieres at TIFF Next WaveFriday, February 12, 2021.
Just announced, Rachel Sennott will appear on TIFF‘s Instagram Live 7:30 PM ETFebruary 12, 2021, discussing her career and her Comedy. More details here.
Shawn Mendes fans will be delighted about this! A new Documentary about Pickering’s finest is set to arrive on Netflix next month!
GRAMMY nominated, multi-platinum singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes and longtime manager Andrew Gertler partner with Netflix to release “IN WONDER” globally on November 23. The debut feature length documentary, a TIFF special event selection, from acclaimed music video director Grant Singer (The Weeknd, Lorde, Sam Smith), is a portrait of Mendes‘ life, chronicling the past few years of his rise and journey. Executive produced by Andrew Gertler, Shawn Mendes, & Ben Winston; produced by Saul Germaine, p.g.a and James Haygood. This announcement comes on the heels of the release of “Wonder,” the title track off Mendes’ forthcoming album.
I knew I’d be in for a treat being paired with the 2020 Acura ILX Tech A-Spec for the Toronto International Film Festival this year. And it never disappoints. The sleek and sporty ride in a stunning Apex Blue Pearl is pure power and style, but spacious enough and loaded with features to nail the marks in practicality.
The ILX Tech A-Spec is powered by a 2.4-litre, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC® 4-cylinder engine and 201 horsepower @ 6800 rpm. Premium Unleaded fuel is recommended.
There are several things which make the ILX sophisticated and elegant. Firstly, its red Ultrasuede™/leather-trimmed seating surfaces is an aesthetic we can get behind. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel add that touch of style that elevate the driving experience. Driver and Front Passenger have heated seating, a luxury as the temperatures drop these coming months. The former has 10-way adjustable seating and the latter gets 4-way adjustment. All this under a power moonroof which we enjoyed particularly this year in our Drive-In experiences at the Festival! Pure ambience.
Safety features are abundant in this offering from Acura, including 3-point seat belts with Automatic Tensioning System (front), Anti-lock Braking System* (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS®), Blind Spot Information System, Cross-Traffic Monitoring System, Lane Departure/Keeping Assist Warning (LDW) system,Front side airbags and Side Curtain Airbags are reasons to drive assured knowing the ILX has your back always.
We can’t stress enough the importance of having Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) with Traction Control especially when we drive into rural conditions and on the roads in the winter. It’s a game-changer and life-saver. A multi-angle rear-view camera makes parking and backing-out simple and this plus auto headlights mean we have one less thing to worry about so we can focus on our driving.
Did we mention the car is Proximity Entry? We loathe fumbling for keys and it always is a joy knowing we don’t have to stress about this!
We love a car with several charging options and under the Driver’s Armrest are a few options to stay connected always. It also comes equipped with the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™ and 8″ display, plus a Multi-Information Colour Display for our audio entertainment. The audio system itself is an ELS Studio® Premium Audio System with AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM™, 10 speakers and hard disk drive (HDD) media storage. It also has a CD player. We love it! Syncing via Bluetooth with our phone was a breeze. Where we did have connectivity issues was connection on the AM dial and songs would stop playing via Bluetooth occasionally via our phone. We’d notice long blank audio gaps occasionally but this is a small issue.
While we wish Acura would follow the lead of its sister company Honda and introduce an ECON mode as well, we can’t complain about the ILX‘s Fuel Economy especially with fuel prices dipping of late. It tallies-in at 9.9/7.0/8.6 L/100 km for city/highway/combined.
Some of our highlights at TIFF ’20, which we couldn’t have done with this beauty! While this Festival was very different from others, we are grateful still to have gotten to experience it and we’re grateful for the ILX being there for us.
In addition to this, the ILX Tech A-Spec got us to our interviews safe and efficient, which we appreciate more than ever especially during a Pandemic when we worry about the safety other means of transportation.
And did we mention we’re a Dad again? Our beanie was born during TIFF ’20 (how fitting!) and we had to rush to be by her side to welcome her into this world. We will be bringing her home end of October. So stoked!
As always, everything happens at once in our world, and we were thrilled to be only one of a few outlets granted access to North America’s most historic horse race, the Queen’s Plate – now in its 161st edition at Woodbine Racetrack.
DISCLAIMER: Bruised is screening as a work-in-progress at TIFF ’20
Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with Bruised. It follows disgraced MMA fighter Jackie “Justice” (Halle Berry) who has been struggling to get by after losing an important match years ago. Since then, she’s been living with her Manager-Bboyfriend Desi (Adan Canto). One night, Desi tricks Jackie into an underground fight and her passion for the sport reignites. That same night, her six-year-old son whom she abandoned years ago, is left at her doorstep. This sends Jackie on a redemption path both to prove herself both in the ring, and as a mother to Manny.
Bruised follows the classic Athlete/Fighter redemption archetype, told through a new lens. While this has been explored before with a central female character, typically see these stories with men in the lead. Berry is well aware that a woman can pack a punch too. Early, she throws us right into the ring in Jackie’s enraged world. Her short-temper is shown in the opening scene where she attacks a teenager because he films her while she’s changing. Jackie’s brute force is shown also to us immediately. In the underground match, we see just how violent and ruthless she can be when faced with a worthy competitor.
At the center of everything is Berry’s performance. She does an excellent job channeling Jackie’s pent-up rage, but also showing her weaknesses. It’s clear in the First Act that Jackie is ready to fire after her previous match. Also, there is tenderness to her when she is paired with Manny. Those quiet moments between mother and son allow Berry to show her range. It’s also an honest depiction of the female personality, that a duality of tough and gentle can co-exist.
Berry has surrounded herself with strong talent. Toronto’s own, and TIFF ’19 Rising Star Shamier Anderson is great as Jackie’s newly-minted Manager with an agenda. Canto turns-in a strong performance as Jackie’s supportive, yet abusive Manager-Boyfriend. However, the most memorable performance from the Supporting Cast comes from TIFF ’20 Rising Star Sheila Atim. She commands the screen as Jackie’s ‘zen’ Trainer.
Berry sets her Film amidst the tough streets of Newark, New Jersey, taking us into Jackie‘s heart and soul. She shoots the training and fight scenes with passion and intensity. The Film’s blockbuster fight scenes are its brightest moments. While the story veers often to other competing plot lines surrounding her family and love, which ultimately fail to come to full fruition and get resolved, we wanted more training and fights and that always should have been the central focus. A bit more judicious editing and a shorter run time would benefit this work-in-progress.
Bruised screens at TIFF ’20:
Sat, Sep 12 6:00pm
Online at Bell Digital Cinema
Sat, Sep 12 7:45pm Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView
Fri, Sep 18 9:00pm Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView
In the woods of the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, there are truffles buried in the Earth. The culinary delight is beloved by many, but few know how they reach our tables. The Truffle Hunters profiles a group of individuals who deal in the Truffle trade, from buying and selling, to the men and their dogs who find them.
The Truffle Hunters is a delight from start to finish. In a year that has literally been a dystopic nightmare for so many, it is genuinely refreshing to watch a wholesome, feel good movie primarily about men who look for truffles with their dogs. I was smiling and laughing throughout the Film, especially during the ridiculous sequences of back alley truffle dealing (yes, it is a thing and yes, it looks just as wild as you imagine it does). Somehow, these moments are not even the most outrageous and unbelievable scenes in the Movie. My experience with truffles is limited, but seeing them discussed at length here was both educational and enlightening. Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw could have approached the Film and its topic as being inconsequential and silly, but they give these individuals a voice to share their passion of choice. And even though I am a cat person, it was absolutely wonderful watching these older men interacting with their dogs.
Speaking of dogs, there are two scenes that are shot from their point of view – and I am literally shrieking with joy just thinking about them. The camera is mounted on the dog’s head and we feel their joy as they get to run through the forest foraging for truffles. It is an intriguing Cinematography choice from Dweck and Kershaw that could have gone horribly wrong, but ends up working marvelously. When was the last time you can remember watching a film scene where a dog’s snout bounces in and out of the frame? Or when you last saw a camera shaking-off whatever was on it? I cannot recall a dog’s POV being utilized like this before, but it really complements the Film and literally makes the act of digging for truffles feel even more authentically-realized here. Now I just hope all dog-related productions learn from this Film and add in more POV footage from their angle.
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is a bit of a tough Dad. He loves his family, but he has a hard time showing it. When his son Jadin (Reid Miller) ‘comes out’ as gay, Joe is begrudgingly supportive of his decision but not at all subtle with his embarrassment. After Jadin faces an onslaught of relentless bullying at school, Joe decides to walk and speak to groups across America to raise awareness about bullying and the effects it can have on others.
Good Joe Bell is a movie with its heart in the right place. It is based on an emotional true story and addresses an important topic that is sadly more relevant than ever. And Wahlberg, while not exactly the best candidate for the lead role, has rarely ever played a character like this before. He digs a bit deeper than usual, beyond being the brash jerk who yells and swears off the cuff, and has a few moments of true introspection. You can see and feel the genuine emotional range in his patchy bearded face. It is not his best work, but his soulful turn here continues his trend of trying to stretch beyond the Bostonian wise-ass archetype he can play in his sleep. Miller is very effective as Jadin, but he takes a back seat to Wahlberg’s redemption tale far too often (which may or may not have been the best narrative choice). And even though he does not have much to do, it was positively delightful to see Gary Sinise for a bit part in the Film’s Last Act.
But having good intentions does not save Good Joe Bell from being a complete mess. The Film employs a flashback structure that works in some instances, but does more harm than good by jumbling-up the timeline. The narrative gaps are practically endless, with crucial information removed from the Film entirely in favour of a zippy running time. Worse, its initial framing device to explain the plot is abandoned less than half way into the Film. Instead of addressing it properly, the pivot is treated as a barely consequential twist. Supporting Characters exist but have literally no bearing on what happens (and barely any explanation of who they are). Motivations are thin, and the Film has a bad habit of not properly showing or telling.
All of these elements and more make Good Joe Bell a crushing disappointment, especially when taking into consideration the wonderful talent behind the camera – which includes the Oscar-winning Screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain, Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana. There is a great film buried somewhere deep within Good Joe Bell, and it is a disservice to this important story for this to be the final product.
Two living legends came together virtually on Thursday evening as part of TIFF ’20’s stellar In Conversation series – Oscar winners BarryLevinson and DenzelWashington. The event was delayed slightly, but the pair made-up for it by speaking for just under an hour with veteran film journalist Scott Feinberg about their histories in Film, directing and where the industry is heading.
And despite not having worked together, the pair have a personal connection to new Film Malcolm & Marie, the upcoming Film bought earlier this week by Netflix. The Film was shot for 16 days during the pandemic, is written and directed by Barry’s son Sam Levinson (Euphoria) and stars Denzel’s son John David Washington – as well as reuniting him with Euphoria star Zendaya. It is already on the top of our Must-See List!
On getting into the Film business:
DENZEL: “It was the only grade I could pass! I did a Musical first, and I found out that I couldn’t sing. One has to recognize one’s limitations. But it [acting] just chose me.”
BARRY: “I had no thoughts of ever, ever being in this business. It wouldn’t even occur to me. I didn’t even know anybody that was connected remotely with the business. Other than the fact that I loved films, and I would talk about them and I was fascinated by them, but it was never an ambition of mine. It wasn’t even on my radar in any way. So I kind of stumbled into it actually.”
On directorial debuts:
BARRY (on DINER): “He [legendary filmmaker MelBrooks] was extraordinary. I used to talk about these diner guys that I knew, my friends. And he said to me one day, ‘You should write a film about them’. And he referenced Fellini’s I Vitelloni, which I hadn’t seen. So he gave me that encouragement, and that thought. And ultimately it stuck.”
DENZEL (on ANTWONE FISHER): “My producing partner Todd Black thought I would be a good Director. I didn’t believe him, so I procrastinated for about ten years, until he backed me into a corner – we had the budget, the money, the Script, we had everything. And I finally said…in fact, I was in Toronto for the Festival and Peter Rice, who was running Searchlight then, he got me to sign a napkin saying that I promised to direct. He still has it somewhere! So I was a reluctant Director, I still don’t think I know that much about it, but I’m learning more about it. And I’ve learned from the best.”
On collaborating with actors:
BARRY: “I think what happens is that there’s a moment in time and it continues through a movie, there’s a growth as it goes along. Because you are both learning. If you are locked-in, that this is it and that is that, that’s one way to go. But the other is sometimes you discover things as you go along that you can add to the character. And then it becomes richer than either one of you had envisioned.”
DENZEL: “I’ve been on movies where it was just the Director’s movie. And the Movie is bigger than that. The Movie has a life of its own and you bring all these talented people together and let them do what they do best. Now the Director is going to get the credit or the blame for it ultimately and has to steer the ship, but I want the best around me. I want to see them do great. We’re all in it together.”
On directing advice:
DENZEL (on talking to Director Joel Coen): “I said what about stealing? And he said oh, everybody steals. But steal from somebody good, steal from the best. There’s no new ideas, they’ve all been done before. So if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.”
On box office:
BARRY (when discussing Rain Man): “There is no gestation period where someone is telling somebody else and the numbers start to rise. It’s a difficult thing now to get that kind of momentum…I don’t think you get that opportunity anymore. And on the other hand, it’s hard to make those kinds of films now, and survive in the marketplace. So most of them get killed before they ever move along. It’s a different era in that regard.”
BARRY: “There’s no question – the streamers and the HBO, that’s not going to go away. It is probably only going to continue to increase as time goes along. And of course, there will still be a theatrical component, but what that content is going to be I don’t know. But the more daring storytelling is going to turn up mostly in the streamer world. It is unfortunate, because the idea of an audience to see something is incredible… Everything keeps evolving and you have to find a way to be able to do the work that you care about. And that’s all you can do. You just have to find a way to tell the story that you feel passionate about.”
On Chadwick Boseman:
DENZEL: “A gentle man. A very gentle soul. A great talent, obviously, thrust into this position. I remember going to see Black Panther. I was in New York and I went backstage, after the show. It was a red carpet and I didn’t want to go out there, so I went backstage. And I saw Chad, and I saw Ryan Coogler and then I went to watch the Movie. I remember shedding a tear because I was like man, these young guys are just gone. Like they’ve taken over. You know sooner or later you’re not going to make it all around the track and you got to get off to watch the young boys run. And watching that movie, that’s what I felt like. And like, who knew he didn’t have much life left? But he didn’t get cheated. We did. I pray for his poor wife and his family, they got cheated. But he lived a full life.”
Beans (Kiawentiio) wants to fit in. The 12-year-old Mohawk girl just applied to an elite middle school and she is being bullied by some older teens in her Indigenous community. While she struggles to find her place, two Mohawk communities begin a standoff with Quebec authorities over the expansion of a golf course into a neighbouring forest and burial ground, thrusting Beans into a world of racism and violence she has never experienced before.
In her first narrative Feature, Co-Writer/Director Tracey Deer has crafted a powerful coming-of-age story that centres around the Oka Crisis in 1990 Quebec. Deer does not shy away from the intensity of the situation, frequently thrusting her Cast right into the middle of her depiction. Her attention to detail is impeccable, and the way she merges actual news footage from the event with the Film’s recreations is superb. Beans is filled with scenes that are tragic and genuinely heartbreaking to watch, each one emphasizing the despicable racism these Indigenous communities were subjected to because they wanted to fight for their land rights. Deer does not even pretend to sugar coat any of it. Everything presented in Beans feels very real and very authentic, and so closely mirrors the actual news footage from 1990, not to mention from the present day, that it becomes downright frightening to comprehend.
For how great the Film looks and how awful it will make you feel to know that something like this happened (and is STILL happening), it would all be for nothing without Beans herself. We get to see the world through her eyes – and the young Kiawentiio is absolutely spectacular in the Leading Role. She captures the optimistic spirit of a typical 12-year-old and expertly conveys the trauma she has to endure because of the standoff. I think some of the tonal whiplash the Film goes through puts her at a disadvantage in some instances (and a particular extended moment in the Third Act drags the Film out needlessly), but she handles nearly everything with grace and an expert precision that extends beyond her years as an actor. First-time actors Violah Beauvais – as Beans’ younger sister Ruby – and Paulina Alexis – as Beans’ friend April – are cast perfectly and complement Kiawentiio’s beautiful performance. If anyone can even come close to matching her, it is Rainbow Dickerson as Beans’ mother Lily. Her vivid emotions are devastating to watch in action, and I doubt I will forget any of those visceral expressions any time soon.
BEANS screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Sun, Sep 13 TIFF Bell Lightbox 12:00pm and 12:30pm
Pieces of a Woman is an intimate portrait of a couple who experience the greatest loss. Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Shawn (Shia LaBeouf) are passionately in love and eagerly expecting the birth of their daughter. When the night arrives, they learn their Midwife is busy with another client and a different one is sent. Unfortunately, complications arise with their home birth and the couple is sent spiralling into heart-wrenching tragedy.
Director Kornél Mundruczó shoots this outstanding Film with unflinching honesty. He is known for putting his characters under immense pressure. His use of long, continuous takes in pivotal scenes creates a real authenticity, us watching as scenes unfold in real-time and the result is both agonizing and gut-wrenching for the viewer.
The Film’s opening sequence lasts for 30 minutes. It consists of long takes following Martha, Shawn and their Midwife (Molly Parker) around their house — spanning from her first contractions to her delivery. This scene perfectly shows the love which Martha and Shawn share, and their desire to welcome their baby girl. We are immersed into the pressure cooker that becomes their house and in witnessing Martha‘s extreme difficulty, we get the unsettling sense that something isn’t right. Under Mundruczó’s masterful direction, this scene becomes a sweeping emotional journey and the sets the stage for what are some truly powerful performances.
Kirby is magnificent as a woman grappling with grief, while her body and family constantly remind her of what she lost. She commands each scene with powerful actions and controlled expressions. Most impressive, she finds that delicate balance in Martha’s newly hardened heart and her vulnerability. LaBeouf gives one of the greatest performances of his career. He is at his best drowning in Shawn’s grief and is desperate for Martha‘s love and affection again. While often we see this from a woman’s perspective, the Film gives us a genuine snapshot of what it might be like for a man.
Kirby and LaBeouf even though their characters are so different, have a palpable chemistry that makes us fall in love with them. They’re portraying a couple who are facing the biggest challenge in their relationship. Thanks to their strong chemistry we are invested in their love and are devastated when we see it crumbling. They are joined by a talented Supporting Cast. Parker is great portraying the anxiety of a Mmidwife during the home birth and expresses her unspoken guilt so well in the Third Act, within the courtroom. Ellen Burstyn is superb as Martha’s overbearing mother, always making her presence felt but especially in a confrontation between her and Kirby.
Pieces of a Woman is difficult watch, but it’s one that will change you after seeing it. Screenwriter Kata Wéber has written a beautiful, heartbreaking Script that’s about surviving after the most horrifying loss. She does this by allowing us to check-in with her characters once a month, fall to spring. This shows us the changes happening within and outside them as we watch them grow in their own ways. Time heals the pain and the Film captures this process so beautifully. And Wéber reminds us that a woman is comprised of infinite pieces which only she is able to break and rebuild again.
Pieces of a Woman screens at TIFF ’20:
Sat, Sep 12 12:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Wed, Sep 16 6:00pm
Online at Bell Digital Cinema
Wed, Sep 16 9:00pm
Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView