By Sean Boelman
It is that time of year again for the Fall festival season, in which some of the most exciting films of the year debut and screen, from acclaimed international pictures to soon-to-be awards contenders. One of the most prestigious of these festivals, the Toronto International Film Festival, returns again this year with another hybrid edition, offering both in-person and virtual screenings to Canadian audiences.
For the second year in a row, we at disappointment media have gotten the opportunity to cover the festival remotely. Although we are having to wait to see some of the biggest films to screen at the festival in a theatrical setting when they are released here in the States, we have gotten to watch plenty of great films from around the world. Here are some of our thoughts on the films we have screened!
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a would-be prestige picture that hopes to be a comedic biopic, but Abe Sylvia’s script is far too indecisive on its subject to work. For much of the film, it’s hard to tell whether we are supposed to root for, pity, or laugh at the eponymous televangelist, and that creates a lot of really jarring tonal shifts. Jessica Chastain overacts as usual and is very annoying, but it fits here. It’s a shame, because Andrew Garfield’s performance is genuinely great, and Showalter’s direction is solid, but the film is nearly insufferable.
The Good House
Sigourney Weaver is overdue for a strong starring role, but The Good House was not it. Following an alcoholic realtor who reunites with an old flame, the film is an absolute mess tonally. There’s just too much going on in the film, from the main storylines to a subplot about some of her clients, resulting in an ending that is almost laughable. Weaver’s performance is strong as always, serving as the glue to hold the whole thing together, but even she struggles to pull it off.
Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti has made plenty of acclaimed films, so it was a shock when Three Floors debuted at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and was mostly panned. And if one wonders if the film is actually that bad, the answer is a firm yes. However, there is something alluringly watchable about this ridiculous melodrama in the same way that it’s hard to look away from a horrible car crash (which is fitting because of the film’s supposedly shocking but nearly laughable opening scene).
Plenty of filmmakers have taken on the challenge of telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic to varying degrees of success. Chung Mong-Hong (whose film A Sun was shortlisted for Best International Feature last year) manages to do so in a way that is surprisingly touching in The Falls. The thing about Chung’s film that works so well is that it isn’t about the pandemic itself, but rather, how people reacted to it, and that results in a film with even more resonant themes.
Director Evan Jackson Leong’s Snakehead is meant to be a crime thriller with a deeper message, but it doesn’t live up to its potential. There is some commentary to be found here about immigration in the United States, but the film gets far too caught up in the tropes of the genre to be anything more than passive entertainment. While predictable, the story has enough in terms of excitement to make up for largely uninspired action and less than impressive performances.
Where Is Anne Frank
Ari Folman’s animated documentary Waltz with Bashir is an absolutely phenomenal film, hence why his family parable Where Is Anne Frank is such a disappointment. The animation is just as strong as one would expect, but from a narrative standpoint, it is absolutely insufficient. Beyond the problem of making Anne Frank a side character in her own story, the film is nearly offensive in how it uses the Holocaust as a metaphor for the modern refugee crisis. It’s undeniably well-intentioned, but misfire after misfire make it nearly unbearable.
You Are Not My Mother
You Are Not My Mother is the type of film that seeks to build horror more through dread than simple scares, but it isn’t terribly effective in doing so. Kate Dolan’s film is based on Irish folklore, but doesn’t explore it in much depth. Instead, what we get is a mostly psychological piece, with slow pacing and much of the suspense coming from not knowing what is true. It manages to be both too straightforward and ambiguous to be even unnerving.
Harry Wootliff’s True Things is a romance like many we have seen before, but the bleak realism of what it depicts is effectively heartbreaking. Tom Burke and Ruth Wilson create a tremendous dynamic between them, capturing the ups and downs in the relationship. Burke is especially impressive in his role, giving a performance that is equal parts charming and unhinged. The story is at times frustrating, as the psychological cycle the protagonist is experiencing causes a lot of repetition, but it fits the themes well.
Ali & Ava
Much of the charm of the romantic dramedy Ali & Ava is in its simplicity. Following a landlord going through a divorce and a single mother struggling to stay afloat as they form an unexpected connection, the film is sweet in all the right ways, even if it struggles to do anything particularly profound with its themes. The film shows the potential to explore the plight of the British working class, but gets caught up in the basic humanity and empathy of the story. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s refreshingly light, but it is unexpected.
One of many Holocaust films to play at this year’s TIFF (and perhaps more surprisingly, one of two animated Holocaust features), Charlotte is a good idea that is executed poorly. From an artistic standpoint, the film is solid, with a strong animation style, even if it does play it safe a bit often. That said, it is almost entirely insufficient from a narrative standpoint. The story is rushed to wrap it all up into an hour-and-a-half runtime, and as a result, any thematic nuance is lost in favor of a bunch of WWII tropes.
The new Terence Davies film Benediction is a film that is undeniably good, but will alienate a lot of audiences with its style. Those who have seen Davies’s previous work will know that his films are slow, dry, and meditative, and while that approach works in telling the story of poet Siegfried Sassoon, it’s also not a particularly enjoyable watch as a result. Attempts at a type of acerbic wit throughout are enough to keep the viewer from being totally disinterested, and a phenomenal performance from Jack Lowden is nearly captivating, but it’s a bit too dull to work.
Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Montana Story is, not unexpectedly, a gorgeous film to behold, but from a narrative standpoint, it isn’t all that impressive. Following two estranged siblings who reunite as their father nears the end of his life, the film offers a lot of genuine emotion but nothing that we haven’t seen before. That said, the two central performances from Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson are both great, bringing a lot of empathy to make the quiet, somber nature of the film work.
Many jokes have been made about the fact that every year’s TIFF lineup seems to feature a film starring Naomi Watts, and this year’s selection proves that trend to be absolutely dire. Phillip Noyce’s Lakewood is without a doubt the single worst film that screened at this year’s festival, a borderline insensitive school shooting thriller that milks genuine tragedies for the sake of supposed thrills. Shot during the pandemic, this is effectively a one-woman show for Watts, and while she gives it her all, it isn’t enough to boost an aggressively bad film.
The Canadian sci-fi film Night Raiders is a massive disappointment, not because it’s bad (because it isn’t), but because the glimpses of brilliance are so obvious that one can’t help but think about what this could have been. Transporting the historical atrocity of residential schools to a dystopian setting, the film follows a mother who tries to break her daughter out of a state-run camp. It’s such an intriguing concept, but the dialogue is frequently mediocre and the performances consistently underwhelming. That said, filmmaker Danis Goulet shows a lot of potential here in her debut, and hopefully she will live up to it with her future work.
Compartment No. 6
Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6 is a refreshingly light film that is a wonderful reminder of how important it is for us to connect with one another. Following two very different strangers who befriend each other when they are forced to share a cabin on a long train journey across Europe. It’s a lot more subtle than most films which explore a union between two people from very different walks of life thanks to some brilliant dialogue and excellent character work. It isn’t the weightiest film in this year’s lineup, but it has lots of good observations.
All My Puny Sorrows
Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, the drama All My Puny Sorrows is destined to be one of the biggest misfires of the festival. Following two sisters who are going through mental health crises, it’s clear that writer-director Michael McGowan had the best of intentions when exploring these themes, but he absolutely fumbles them. Allison Pill and Sarah Gadon try their hardest to salvage the script but end up overacting, likely due to poor direction, and all of the technical elements are overdone. It’s the type of film that wants to be a tear-jerker, but it doesn’t even succeed in that.
A new supernatural procedural series from South Korean filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho, Hellbound is set in a world where people receive visions of a spirit telling them when they will be condemned to Hell, with a demon later fulfilling the prophecy. It’s an intriguing premise with shades of Final Destination, but it’s executed poorly in a way that isn’t all that compelling. The three (out of six) episodes that screened at TIFF were fine, but filled with fluff, making it clear that this might have been more suited for a feature film format.
Eva Husson’s film Mothering Sunday is a steamy period drama that will be overwhelmingly familiar, but is a very well-executed entry into its genre. The film follows a maid sharing one final, passionate day with the wealthy man she loves before he leaves to marry for status, and there really isn’t much more to this film than a bunch of sex. That said, the cinematography is gorgeous, the costumes are exquisite (when the characters are even clothed, which isn’t very often), and the performances by Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor are great. It’s a film that delivers exactly on its promises, which makes it hard to complain about.
Saul Williams’s output as a musician is certainly very interesting, so one should expect no less of his first effort as a filmmaker (co-directed with Anisia Uzeyman). Neptune Frost is an independent, low-budget musical about an intersex hacker and anti-colonialism. If that sounds like a lot to handle in one movie, that’s because it is, but Williams and Uzeyman pull it off gracefully. And as for the soundtrack, it’s weird and creative, a soundscape mixing traditional African beats with electronic and hip-hop sounds. It’s not quite like anything you will have seen before, and that’s a good thing.
As the follow-up to her widely-acclaimed period romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, filmmaker Céline Sciamma has made an equally restrained family film in Petite Maman. Following a young girl who discovers an unexpected friendship after her grandmother passes away, this is a lovely little film about the innocence of childhood. The visuals of the film are just as gorgeous as one would expect, and young actress Joséphine Sanz is absolutely wonderful, but the film is just too low-key to be anything more than merely adorable.
The Girl and the Spider
Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s The Girl and the Spider is the type of talky international drama that makes up a lot of festival lineups. Following a woman as she prepares to move out, causing her to reflect on her connection with her roommate, this is interesting as a relationship drama that isn’t about romance. It’s occasionally poetic, and the things it has to say about how interactions leave a lingering impact on both ourselves and others are somewhat profound, but the character development is far too thin for the film to resonate.
The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18.
Review by Sean Boelman
One of the world’s longest-running festivals, the Locarno Film Festival is back in 2021 with a hybrid edition featuring films from around the world. From exciting premieres of the newest films from established filmmakers to some intriguing debuts from new voices, the lineup this year features plenty of movies that festival-goers won’t want to miss.
We at disappointment media are excited to be providing remote coverage for the 2021 Locarno Film Festival. Below you can find our thoughts on some of the films we have been able to check out that are playing as a part of the lineup. Although the festival is coming to a close, the press and industry online library continues until August 31, so we will add more capsule reviews to this article as we check out more films!
There have been plenty of films to pose the question of what the oppressed would do if they became the oppressor, but filmmaker Hleb Papou’s unexpectedly tender approach for The Legionnaire is welcome and refreshing. On paper, this story of an African-Italian police officer who is torn between his duty and his obligation to family sounds like it is going to be a race-against-the-clock thriller when in reality, it is something much more nuanced, a restrained and intimate character study. Germano Gentile’s leading performance is absolutely brilliant, nailing every bit of emotion in the story.
Festivals are designed to discover all sorts of films, including work that would likely never have been seen if not for the platform and prestige that the festival provides. For better or worse, Ghassan Salhab’s The River is one of those films, with a slow and frequently meandering script but solid production values. There is definitely something interesting to be found in this story of two people wandering the landscape contemplating an impending war, but it will test the viewer’s patience as the interactions start to blend together. It’s worth watching for some gorgeous scenery and strong chemistry between Ali Suliman and Yumna Marwan, but it won’t be for everyone.
Phil Tippet is an absolute legend in the film community for having worked on the visual effects teams on such classics as RoboCop, Jurassic Park, and The Empire Strikes Back, so his feature-length stop-motion animation project Mad God was obviously high on the list of most-anticipated films of the Locarno lineup. While it’s certainly a bit on the heavy-handed side when it comes to its message, the love and craft that went into this project absolutely leap off the screen. The world which Tippet has created for his film is so immersive, and will have viewers transfixed for the entirety of the eighty-plus minute runtime.
The 2021 Locarno Film Festival runs August 4-14.
Review by Sean Boelman
The Cannes Film Festival is back for its 74th edition after having to take a break for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filled with some highly anticipated premieres of both auteur-driven films and new discoveries, the lineup should have any cinephile excited for the state of film for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, we at disappointment media were unable to attend the festival in person, but we are providing remote coverage where possible. Here are some of our thoughts! We will be updating this article with more capsule reviews as we screen additional films.
The Italian period piece Small Body starts out very interestingly and loses steam over the course of its hour and a half runtime. Laura Samani’s film, about a woman who sets out on a journey to save the soul of her stillborn child, is a visually stunning exploration of spirituality for much of its first act. However, after about thirty or so minutes, it settles into a much more conventional rhythm resembling a traditional road movie. It’s still good by all means, just not as great as the opening shows the potential to be.
Simon Coulibaly Gillard’s coming-of-age drama Aya certainly has some emotionally affecting moments, but it falls victim to convention a bit too often for its own good. Following a young woman who faces an identity crisis as her home is threatened, there is obviously a very important message here, although the pacing does detract from it a bit. The visuals are frequently gorgeous, and Gillard is clearly very talented, but from a narrative standpoint, it feels a bit too much like things we have already seen.
Sometimes, an inspirational crowd-pleasing drama is what is called for, and the Maxime Roy film The Heroics fits that bill wonderfully. It’s a pretty simple film about a former junkie who is trying to make himself into a better person for the sake of both himself and his kids. At times, it feels like it’s a bit too self-serious, but there are plenty of absolutely heart-wrenching moments sprinkled throughout. François Creton’s leading performance is brilliant as well, bringing a lot of emotion to the role.
Babi Yar. Context
In terms of documentaries composed solely of archive footage, Sergey Loznitsa’s Babi Yar. Context is pretty brilliant. It’s simple yet effective in what it hopes to depict, the tragic massacre of thousands of Jewish people in the Ukraine. It’s undoubtedly a difficult film to watch because of how brutal some of the footage it utilizes is. At two hours in length, it’s perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be, but it achieves the point it is trying to make quite effectively.
Returning to Reims (Fragments)
Based on Didier Eribon’s novel, Jean-Gabriel Périot’s documentary Returning to Reims (Fragments) offers a very compelling portrait of the French working class. However, despite some excellent archive footage and great narration from Adèle Haenel, this feels more like an essay and less like a film, for better or worse. It argues its point quite effectively, but it may not connect with viewers in a way that will allow its message to be entirely resonant. There are a lot of really good things going on here, but it won’t expand beyond the audience that is already interested in it.
A Radiant Girl
Sandrine Kimberlain’s coming-of-age drama A Radiant Girl joins the tradition of the great Holocaust comedies that have a sense of optimism to them which one wouldn’t expect from a film like this, even if it doesn’t live up to the same level. Rebecca Marder’s performance is absolutely exceptional, bringing a lot of personality to a character archetype that has been done many times before. Yet even though the film might struggle with a genre that is overstuffed, it sticks the landing in a way that won’t soon be forgotten.
Zero Fucks Given
Almost entirely dependent on the success of the lead performance from Adèle Exarchopoulos, Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre’s dramedy Zero Fucks Given doesn’t live up to the enormous amount of potential it has. The first half of the film, following the protagonist as her world falls down around her, is really compelling, but the second half struggles to keep up the strong momentum. There are a lot of really good things going on in the film, but it’s a bit too meandering for its own good.
Little Palestine (Diary of a Siege)
The ACID-selected documentary Little Palestine (Diary of a Siege) makes an expectedly compelling and emotional watch. A verité look at the residents of a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, the narrative through-line in the film isn’t the strongest, but the footage that director Abdallah Al-Khatib utilizes to depict this political crisis is absolutely astounding. The film inspires in how it showcases the members of this community creating art and enjoying life despite all the turmoil that surrounds them, but it also calls attention to the important issues at hand.
One of the selections from the cancelled 2020 edition that were invited back to screen at the 2021 festival, Tony Gatlin’s film Tom Medina is gorgeous, but it features a very wandering narrative. There is a point to all of the antics that the eponymous protagonist gets into, but it’s really conventional in a way that isn’t entirely satisfying. The highlight here is the performance from David Murgia, who gives a turn that is far better than everything that surrounds it.
A Corsican Summer
Pascal Tagnati’s film A Corsican Summer screened in the ACID sidebar to the Cannes Film Festival, a parallel section devoted to finding distribution for independent films from across the world, and it is definitely a very independent production. This very specific slice-of-life film about a group of people going about their routines one summer is completely stagnant in a narrative sense. The visuals are frequently gorgeous, and there are definitely some compelling vignettes, but they don’t amount to a compelling enough film to justify a two-hour-plus runtime.
The 2021 Cannes Film Festival runs from July 7-17.
By Sean Boelman
The first half of 2021 has seen a return to (somewhat) normal moviegoing, as we have already had two $100 million+ blockbusters in theaters (Godzilla vs. Kong and A Quiet Place Part II) with a third well on its way (F9) and plenty of indie darlings debuting on the festival circuit, both online and in-person. Now that six months of the year are over, it is time to reflect back upon some of the best films we have seen in that time. Here are our top 10 films of 2020 so far, in alphabetical order:
Bo Burnham: Inside
Bo Burnham’s comedy special Inside is perhaps the best portrait of what it felt like to live during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hilarious, insightful, and poignant, the special features all of the brilliant comedy that one would expect and some catchy songs too. Everyone will have their own favorite part, but some clear highlights include “How the World Works” and “Welcome to the Internet”. It’s perhaps the most purely entertaining eighty-seven minutes of content released this year so far, and it will be hard to find anything funnier in the next six months.
Unlike most of Disney’s live-action reimaginings of their classic animated properties, Cruella feels less like a cash-grab and more like a legitimate attempt to tell a story. Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) was able to make a film that is stylish and fun, featuring the best costumes and soundtrack of the year so far. Of course, the performances are also exceptional, with Emma Stone and Emma Thompson having a competition to see who is better, and the audience being the only winner.
Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself
Directed by Frank Oz, Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself is a performance film capturing the mind-blowing stage show by magician DelGaudio. And while this magic show, which is very heavily rooted in audience participation, may not sound on paper like it would make for a great film, the power of the performance is absolutely undeniable. It’s an experience that is best left unspoiled, but there are plenty of absolutely awe-inspiring moments that will have audiences glued to the screen even though they are watching this from the comfort of their own home.
Judas and the Black Messiah
One of the films to take advantage of the extended Oscar eligibility window, Judas and the Black Messiah was honored in the most recent Academy Awards ceremony but is still a 2021 film nonetheless. And no halfway list would be complete without mentioning this emotionally-charged and unorthodox biopic following Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton. Daniel Kaluuya’s award-winning performance as Hampton is obviously the highlight, but it’s an all-around exceptional film that people will hopefully be talking about for years to come.
Jamie Adams’s comedy Love Spreads is ultimately just a hangout movie about a group of musicians trying to make an album, but it’s exceptional at what it does and offers some surprisingly insightful commentary. Alia Shawkat and Eiza González are great in the film as the two creative forces in the band, giving performances that are uncharacteristically low-key for both of them. The thing that impresses most about Adams’s film, though, is how lived-in it feels, something which so many films in this genre struggle and fail to pull off.
Timur Bekmambetov’s Screenlife format of filmmaking has resulted in some really bad and gimmicky films, but his terrorism thriller Profile is not one of them. Having debuted on the festival circuit three years ago but not receiving a release until now, the film definitely isn’t as timely as it would have been had it been released when it was made, but that doesn’t keep it from being an entertaining and anxiety-inducing thriller.
Raya and the Last Dragon
The output of Walt Disney Animation Studios has been very inconsistent in recent years, but Raya and the Last Dragon is absolutely exceptional. It’s an energetic and emotional adventure with some really strong action and plenty of laughs for both kids and adults. The voice cast — including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, and more — is great, but the true standout of the film is the gorgeous animation which builds this intricate world of Kumandra so wonderfully.
The Sparks Brothers
Somehow cult-favorite filmmaker Edgar Wright’s first foray into nonfiction filmmaking, The Sparks Brothers is undoubtedly one of the most fun and energetic music documentaries in recent memory. Telling the story of the groundbreaking and underappreciated duo Sparks (who will definitely receive their due when their musical Annette is released in August), Wright’s documentary has great interviews, wonderful archive footage, and of course, plenty of great music, and what else could someone want from a documentary like this?
Harry Macqueen’s gay love story Supernova is a brilliant film that got the short end of the stick in awards season because of the level of competition. However, this film features career-best performances from Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci that deserve plenty of recognition, especially the latter. The other thing that allows this film to stand out is that it is an LGBTQ film that isn’t about homophobia or being gay. It’s nice to see love between two men treated as love between two men, not as an obstacle.
There Is No Evil
The Iranian film There Is No Evil is hard to watch, but fittingly so, as it deals with the very difficult theme of capital punishment in Iran. The first two out of four segments of this anthology are riveting, containing some of the most harrowing moments of the film, and the latter two serve to reinforce the point. The fact that this film exists is extraordinary, and cinemagoers should take advantage of that to inform themselves on this issue.
This list only included films that received a regular release between January and June of 2021. Films such as Cryptozoo (releasing in August), We Need to Do Something (releasing in September), A Cop Movie, and Mass (both releasing later this year) might pop up on our end-of-year list.
By Sean Boelman
Note: We at disappointment media do not support many of the decisions that the Tribeca Film Festival has made in regards to its treatment of the media during the 2021 edition. However, we also recognize the fact that the festival is an important launchpad for many films seeking distribution. As such, we will continue to cover films in the lineup, but will focus on the films themselves rather than the festival as a whole.
Wu Hai is a film with a ridiculously intriguing premise that ultimately ends up being another entry in the slow cinema movement. Following a man whose world comes crumbling down around him, this would work much better as a race-against-the-clock thriller than the meditative character study that it is. There are definitely some compelling moments, but more often than not, this feels like a redo of emotional beats that have been done better so many times before. The only thing that there is to really recommend about this film is the absolutely stunning visuals.
Wu Hai is currently seeking distribution.
Rob Schroeder’s sci-fi movie Ultrasound is one of those movies that is extremely complicated to the point of feeling really intelligent, even if it isn’t as profound as it seems to think it is. Yet even though the film is a bit hard to follow at times, it’s generally entertaining thanks to the way in which Schroeder creates the atmosphere. Ultimately, it works best as an exercise in eeriness rather than a horror film in its own right, and as such, it will appeal to hardcore genre fans.
Ultrasound is currently seeking distribution.
Paper & Glue
Street artist JR has always been known for being very socially conscious, but his new documentary Paper & Glue takes his activism to the forefront. Following JR as he uses his art to give a voice to regular people who are underrepresented, it has some pretty powerful aspirations but never manages to reach them. A lot of the issues that JR sets his eyes on are very important, but the focus here seems to be more on the art and less on the issues. It’s a noble step, but it isn’t as great as it should have been.
Paper & Glue is currently seeking distribution.
Adrien Brody is clearly a very talented actor, but his skills when it comes to writing screenplays have yet to be proven. If the revenge thriller Clean is any indication, he definitely needs a bit more work in that department. As a starring vehicle for himself, it works well enough, as it allows him to give a performance that is predictably strong. However, the script is painfully dull and generic, rehashing the beats of any other movie in the genre in a way that can be hard to get through.
Clean is currently seeking distribution.
Ballad of a White Cow
The Iranian film Ballad of a White Cow is perhaps one of the most haunting films on the festival circuit right now, a slow-burn melodrama that escalates into something more sinister with its expertly-crafted tension. Following a woman who learns that her husband was executed for a crime of which he was innocent, this is a bleak film that can be very hard to watch at times, but it’s consistently stirring and very thoughtful. Great direction from Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha and a fabulous performance from Moghadam make this an absolute stand-out.
Ballad of a White Cow is currently seeking distribution.
With/In Vol. 1
Pandemic films are certainly going to be a mainstay in the industry for the next year or so, and so audiences need to get prepared for both good ones and bad ones. Thanks to the talent involved, With/In Vol. 1, an anthology film composed of shorts from notable talent including Sanaa Lathan, Rosie Perez, Morgan Spector, and Bart Freundlich trends towards the positive side, with Spector’s segment “Mother” being a particular highlight. However, even though the intentions are good, filmmakers using the same, widely-available equipment to create a film, the fact that all of these creators are well off is a little suspect.
With/In Vol. 1 is currently seeking distribution.
Having earned several comparisons to Whiplash, Lauren Hadaway’s thriller The Novice is an enthralling glimpse into obsession. In terms of the script, it’s on the conventional side, hitting all of the beats in a predictable manner, but the execution is so stylish that it works nevertheless. The visuals in Hadaway’s film are effectively nightmarish, drawing the viewer into the tense world of the protagonist, and Isabelle Fuhrman gives an amazing performance that was clearly very demanding, both physically and emotionally.
The Novice is currently seeking distribution.
Catch the Fair One
Executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, Catch the Fair One, the sophomore feature of filmmaker Josef Kubota Wladyka may be a bit conventional in terms of its script, but it’s certainly confident in its style. A lean, entertaining revenge thriller, even if it plays it a bit too safe, this story of a boxer trying to find her missing sister packs quite the emotional punch. The lead performance from real-life boxer Kali Reis is also worthy of note, as she manages to pull a lot of nuance out of a character that is somewhat by-the-book.
Catch the Fair One is currently seeking distribution.
A must-see for anyone who is interested in film history, the documentary Claydream tells the story of one of the originators of the claymation style of filmmaking. Documentarian Marq Evans profiles filmmaker Will Vinton in a way that is somewhat formulaic, but the film does a good job of playing out in a way that is cinematic and entertaining. The incorporation of clips from Vinton’s work will undoubtedly leave viewers in awe of his craft, but the real appeal of this film comes in when the story takes a crazy turn in the third act.
Claydream is currently seeking distribution.
From the looks of it, Italian Studies would have been a huge breakout because it features a rising star in Vanessa Kirby, but this film is way too abstract to connect with a majority of audiences. Following an amnesiac writer who wanders the streets of New York City, possibly or possibly not having conversations with teenagers, this is basically a series of metaphorical and philosophical ramblings. Sometimes they are insightful, and other times they feel empty and pretentious. But there’s no doubt that the film is gorgeous to look at, and Kirby’s performance is quite good.
Italian Studies is currently seeking distribution.
Mark, Mary + Some Other People
Mark, Mary & Some Other People is a hilarious romantic comedy exploring the somewhat taboo idea of polyamorous relationships. It’s the type of comedy that deals heavily in secondhand embarrassment, as we watch the characters make the wrong decision time after time, but it’s very funny at what it does. Lead actors Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law have exceptional chemistry together and pull off both the romantic and comedic aspects of the script. From previous outings, it was clear that writer-director Hannah Marks was talented, but this proves that she is great at comedy.
Mark, Mary & Some Other People will release later this year.
Offering a compelling blend of underdog story, food porn, and a political documentary, Robert Coe and Warwick Ross’s film Blind Ambition seems like an unlikely candidate for success, but much like the team of sommeliers it follows, there is much more to this film than it initially lets on. Audiences can expect to be pulled into the story of the Zimbabwean Wine Tasting Olympics team, and the film also does a very good job of diving deep into the stories of these four men who are fighting against the odds.
Blind Ambition is currently seeking distribution.
False Positive is a deeply unoriginal film with a script that borrows heavily from, if not entirely ripping off, better films. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of classic horror will be able to predict where the story is going from a mile away, and the fact that the film seems to think it is smart and subversive is, quite frankly, insulting. A decently eerie style from director John Lee and a devilishly fun performance from Pierce Brosnan are nowhere near enough to make up for this joyless attempt at atmospheric horror, especially with the ending being so outright laughable.
False Positive streams on Hulu beginning June 25.
Creation Stories is clearly meant to exist in the same vein as the much better 24 Hour Party People, a comedy-tinged biopic about someone whose hand guided the evolution of British pop. However, despite having plenty of interesting stories to pull from, the script by Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh is so messy that it’s nearly impossible to make anything out of it. Ewen Bremner is solid as music mogul Alan McGee, and the soundtrack is obviously great, but the writing is just horrid, and director Nick Moran’s failed and cheap-looking attempts to infuse the film with a sleek style don’t help.
Creation Stories will be released later this year.
The Justice of Bunny King
Gaysorn Thavat’s tear-jerking drama The Justice of Bunny King offers some genuinely heartbreaking commentary on the failures of the system which it critiques, but its emotional beats are too predictable and artificial for it to be especially resonant. The performances by Essie Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are fabulous, but this story of a mother struggling to provide for her children has a script that is less than impressive. The first two thirds are sentimental but bearable, but the final act goes way overboard, nearly to the point of being unwatchable.
The Justice of Bunny King is currently seeking distribution.
Larry Flynt for President
The story of Hustler founder and unlikely Presidential candidate Larry Flynt is so insane that it got the biopic treatment in 1996, but the charm of Nadia Szold’s new documentary Larry Flynt for President is that it features lots of unearthed, never-before-seen footage from the Flynt campaign. Clocking in at a lean ninety minutes, the film is definitely very entertaining thanks to its subject’s larger-than-life personality and the often absurd antics in which he involved himself. But beyond that, it’s an interesting exploration of the issue of freedom of speech and the press, which has always been a hot-button topic.
Larry Flynt for President is currently seeking distribution.
a-ha: The Movie
Norwegian pop band a-ha has a large, passionate fanbase, so one would think that a documentary about their rise to fame would be absolutely delightful. However, director Thomas Robsahm’s approach to telling the story is very straightforward, to the point of it becoming dull. There are some interesting moments that feature animation in the style of a-ha’s iconic music videos, but other than that, it’s mostly a compilation of interviews and archival performance footage. It’s good enough to be worth watching, but there’s also no doubt that fans and the group deserve something better.
a-ha: The Movie is currently seeking distribution.
Perhaps the most influential American composer in all of history, Leonard Bernstein lived an absolutely fascinating life and the documentary Bernstein’s Wall allows audiences to hear about it in his own words. It’s a bit traditional in how it’s presented — mostly archive footage with the interviews used as voiceover — but Bernstein is such an exceptional subject that flashiness isn’t necessary. Admittedly, it’s a film that’s going to appeal more to those who are already interested in classical music, but it could also win over some fans for Bernstein’s impressive body of work.
Bernstein's Wall is currently seeking distribution.
We Need to Do Something
Sean King O’Grady’s film We Need to Do Something is an absolute masterclass in tense horror filmmaking. Following a family who find themselves trapped in a bathroom after a devastating storm, this starts out as a lean slow-burn thriller before going absolutely off the rails around the thirty-minute mark. The things that O’Grady is able to do with sound and set design are thoroughly impressive and succeed in capturing the feeling of anxiety that the film requires, and Pat Healy’s unhinged performance as the family’s patriarch is a scene-stealer. Genre fans definitely need to check this one out.
We Need to Do Something hits theaters and VOD on September 3.
Kelly Murtaugh wrote and stars in Shapeless, which is clearly a very personal film, but personal and compelling aren’t always synonymous. Following a lounge singer with an eating disorder that turns her life into a waking nightmare, the film does some interesting things with body horror, but for the most part, is just dull and repetitive. It gets its point across early on, and the rest of the runtime feels like we are trapped in an endless loop of misery. Of course, this seems to be the point, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an altogether unpleasant film to stomach.
Shapeless is currently seeking distribution.
No matter how many are made, there is a seemingly eternal demand for nature documentaries, and the streaming services are often the ones who provide the supply. The newest film from Apple TV+, Fathom, follows two scientists who set out to decode the language behind humpback whale songs. The mission that these researchers are undertaking is pretty fascinating, even if the sound of these whale calls is so soothing to almost lull the viewer to sleep. Still, director/cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos has a tremendous eye, shooting the film in a breathtakingly gorgeous way that will make this a crowd-pleaser.
Fathom streams on Apple TV+ beginning June 25.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road
If one is discussing the best albums made of all time, at least one by the Beach Boys should undoubtedly come up — Pet Sounds — but the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road seeks to remind audiences of just how prolific Wilson’s entire discography is. In terms of how filmmaker Brent Wilson (no relation) presents the eponymous musician’s story, this is a pretty standard biographical documentary, but it’s an entertaining watch nevertheless, especially for those who are already fans. And of course, the best part of the documentary is getting the chance to hear about the origins of some of the best songs ever straight from the mouth of their creator.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is currently seeking distribution.
The Beta Test
Jim Cummings has become quite the indie superstar since his feature debut Thunder Road, and his newest film, The Beta Test (co-written and co-directed with PJ McCabe), is his best and most ambitious yet. Although the film is a tad busy, biting off a bit more than it can chew in terms of themes, it is a mind-blowing satire of Hollywood and social media. Many films have tried and failed to do this same thing before, but Cummings and McCabe have pulled it off in a way that is thoroughly stylish, entertaining, and anxiety-inducing, making for one of the best thrillers of the year so far.
The Beta Test will be released in theaters and on VOD this fall.
The Danish dark comedy Wild Men starts off strong, with some excellent situational humor and the promise of a twisty storyline, but after a while, one begins to wonder why it all matters. Entertaining moments are sprinkled throughout, but the film peaks early and plateaus for much of the rest of the runtime. Perhaps the best thing in play here is a great performance from Rasmus Bjerg, who does a great job with both the comedy and the action. Still, viewers will largely be left unfulfilled, wishing that the film had lived up to the untapped potential of the set-up.
Wild Men is currently seeking distribution.
Although the adjective gets thrown around a lot more frequently than it needs to be used, there is no better word to describe Elisabeth Vogler’s film Roaring 20’s than “pretentious”. Although the execution of the film as a one-take ensemble drama shot on the streets of Paris during the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly impressive, it often feels like the purpose of this film is merely to prove what Vogler was able to do. It’s gimmicky in all the wrong ways, with minimal story or character development and themes that are scattered at best. It’s a shame that Vogler couldn’t put her obvious talent to use on something more profound.
Roaring 20's is currently seeking distribution.
No Man of God
As long as audiences aren’t able to get enough true crime content, filmmakers will keep putting it out, and No Man of God is the latest film that will come and go in the genre. Strong performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood keep this chamber piece about conversations between serial killer Ted Bundy and an FBI psychoanalyst from being entirely forgettable, but the whole affair is frighteningly one-note. The first two thirds are competent but largely dull, but once it gets to the climax, it starts to get outright bad with hokey and forced emotional beats.
No Man of God will be released in theaters and on VOD on August 27.
Recent years have seen an uptick in the amount of socially conscious genre films, and Delmar Washington’s feature debut No Running hopes to put a timely spin on the sci-fi mystery genre. However, the fundamental issue with the film is that first-time writer Tucker Morgan’s script has next to no suspense. There are a lot of genuinely great ideas at play within the story, but an unsubtle hand and a failure to take advantage of the intriguing premise keep the film from elevating beyond competent B-movie level.
No Running is currently seeking distribution.
The Last Film Show
A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the cinema should be an immediate hook for any cinephile, but The Last Film Show is far too familiar for its own good. Pam Nalin’s film is impeccably shot, and it sticks the landing tremendously well, paying off with an unsurprisingly resonant finale, but the abundance of tropes (particularly in the first two acts) make this more sentimental than genuinely emotional. It clearly wants to recapture the magic of Cinema Paradiso, but it just doesn’t have the same level of oomph as that classic.
The Last Film Show is currently seeking distribution.
See For Me
Many horror movies capitalize on the very common fear of the unknown to create a sense of terror. Randall Okita’s film See For Me attempts to double down on that by having a blind protagonist, but fails to translate that to an experience that is particularly tense for the audience. It’s an entertaining and lean thriller, but a very basic one at that, and there have been plenty of movies that have done this same thing much more effectively in the past (just watch Wait Until Dark instead).
See For Me is currently seeking distribution.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Although the magnificent title is one of the best in the horror genre since the days of giallo, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a disappointingly dull affair. Following a brother and sister who begin to clash over the care of their sickly younger brother, this film is far more interested in mood and tone than anything else. Filmmaker Jonathan Cuartas is playing with some interesting ideas here, but the slow burn it takes to the minimal payoff isn’t worth suffering through in the name of an occasionally distinctive take on genre tropes.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To will hit theaters and VOD on June 25.
By Sean Boelman
The Hot Docs Film Festival is one of the biggest markets for documentary filmmaking in the world, and this year, there are plenty of great films that appeared in the lineup. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to see some of the films that screened there, and here are our thoughts:
There is no denying that finance is one of the most confusing industries there is, and Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s documentary Bank Job makes that abundantly clear. Following a community who sets out to defeat predatory economic institutions, the film explores how the success of our society is fundamentally tied to the concept of debt. However, there’s something really inspiring about seeing people come together to support their community like this. It’s a really interesting watch, even if it fails to make these principles make any more sense to the average person.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
One wouldn’t normally think of watching a man stand at an arcade cabinet for hours upon hours as riveting cinema, but Mads Hedegaard’s documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is surprisingly compelling. Following a professional gamer who sets out to play a record-breaking one-hundred-hour session on his favorite game, this is an ode to everyone who has set their eyes on a dream and won’t give up. And in exploring the friendship that exists between the subject and his best friends, the audience will endear the audience to the story with an unexpected authenticity.
The Gig Is Up
In the past decade, the gig economy has been booming significantly, but few people recognize the extent to which we rely on gig workers for many aspects of our lives. Generally, we think of gig workers as the delivery and rideshare drivers or odd job workers from services we commonly utilize, but Shannon Walsh’s documentary The Gig Is Up shows just how much bigger it is. It’s an eye-opening film that explores how both the system and consumers are exploiting this form of labor, with some very emotional interviews that bring home the urgency of this issue.
Playing with Sharks
Acquired by National Geographic out of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Playing with Sharks is the type of documentary that seems destined to have quite the following when it makes its broadcast debut. Telling the story of scuba diver Valerie Taylor, the film offers an interesting examination of the relationship that people have with sharks. It offers a little bit for everyone, with some gorgeous underwater footage for animal lovers and some interesting behind-the-scenes Jaws facts for cinephiles. It’s an all-around crowd-pleaser, and we need more nonfiction films like that.
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is yet another music documentary that promises to offer the untold stories behind some of your favorite songs. And while there is no denying of the importance of Rockfield as an institution, fans will ultimately be familiar with many of these stories. As a result, this is basically a music history lesson for people who are already versed in music history. A few interesting interviews aside, there’s really nothing to make this stand out from all of the other similar documentaries that have come out like this in the past.
Luciana Kaplan’s documentary The Spokeswoman tells the story of an amazing woman whose story needs to be heard. Following the first Indigenous woman to pursue the office of President of Mexico, this isn’t your typical rags-to-riches tale. Instead, it’s about someone who has embarked on a mission of advocacy that is nothing short of extraordinary. Admittedly, the storytelling here is pretty simple, but the film is just so powerful that viewers will be drawn in nevertheless.
The 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival ran virtually April 29 through May 9.
By Sean Boelman
The Hot Docs festival is returning again in 2021 with another massive slate of documentary films to be watched virtually by cinephiles and buyers across Canada. Stay-at-home festival-goers can expect to be delighted by nonfiction cinema from across the world, from new films by established masters to exciting prospects from up-and-coming voices. Below are some of the films we at disappointment media think you should check out:
In the Same Breath
There are more than a few documentaries about the COVID-19 pandemic playing at this year’s festival, but none is likely to be better than Nanfu Wang’s In the Same Breath. After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in January, this film about how the Chinese government used propaganda to spin the story about the coronavirus in their favor has been touring the festival circuit to great acclaim. It’s probably the most eye-opening documentary I have seen yet about the topic as of yet, and viewers are almost certainly going to be shocked by what they see.
The Sparks Brothers
The first documentary by fan-favorite filmmaker Edgar Wright, The Sparks Brothers tells the story of one of the most underappreciated bands in all history. Wright and Sparks honestly seem to be a match made in heaven, as the quirky style of the former aligns brilliantly with the idiosyncratic music of the latter. Even at over two hours in length, it moves along very quickly and is one of the most tremendously enjoyable films you could see at the festival. For those of you who can’t wait to see Annette this summer, this is an amazing opportunity to learn about the guys behind its music.
Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Questlove is perhaps best known as the drummer for The Roots, but he is a phenomenally talented multi-hyphenate, and now he can add filmmaker to his list of skills. An archival music documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival (referred to some endearingly as the “Black Woodstock”), this contains some excellent performance footage from some of the most iconic musicians of all time. It’s a fascinating dive into the culture of the time, but if nothing else, it serves as an excellent excuse to listen to some great tunes for nearly two hours.
Although it is also about COVID-19, Udi Nir and Sagi Bornstein’s film Viral couldn’t be more different than the other film featured on this list about the same issue. Exploring how a group of individuals struggled their way through the pandemic with the help of their online lives, it’s a much more hopeful film than many of the documentaries we have seen come out of this period so far. Nir and Bornstein do an excellent job of investing the audience in the lives of their subjects, resulting in some genuinely funny and surprisingly touching moments that remind us of the humanity that unites us.
Writing with Fire
Winner of the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award in the World Cinema Documentary competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Writing with Fire is one of the most inspiring films audiences will have the pleasure of seeing in this year’s Hot Docs lineup. Following a newspaper in India run completely by women, this is a really powerful film about the role that journalism has in society. Anyone who loves to see stories about extraordinary women busting down walls will be floored by this moving film.
The 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival runs virtually April 29 through May 9.
By Sean Boelman
After having a hybrid edition in 2020, one of the first film festivals to attempt an in-person element in the face of the pandemic, the Florida Film Festival is back for its thirtieth anniversary, and the program is filled to the brim with unique and exciting films. We at disappointment media have gotten the chance to see some of them in advance, and here are a few of our favorites.
Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo is one of the weirder films in the Narrative Feature competition, but this trippy adult animated adventure is also one of the most ambitious and impressive films in the lineup. Like an Indiana Jones movie made by Wes Anderson on acid, this surreal fable with a voice cast including Lake Bell and Michael Cera isn’t quite like anything else you’ll see at the festival. Floridians won’t want to give up this early opportunity to see one of the very best films of the year so far, and on the big screen at that.
My Wonderful Wanda
The International Showcase section at the Florida Film Festival is always a highlight, and this year is no exception. Bettina Oberli’s Swiss melodrama My Wonderful Wanda may lean into the histrionic elements of its family drama, but it’s also far more intelligent than most films in the genre. Following a caregiver who forms a close and complicated relationship with the man for whom she works, the first third is arguably the best part of the film, exploring the dynamics between the upper and lower class, but the more character-driven final act is also compelling and surprisingly emotional.
Interestingly enough, two of the four films in the International Showcase sidebar are about an illegitimate pregnancy. Although the Canadian coming-of-age drama Our Own is the lesser film, it still has some very resonant elements. Ultimately, it needed to either be more subtle or less overt, straddling a weird line of ambiguity that isn’t quite satisfying. There are a lot of really good things here — Jeanne Leblanc shows a lot of talent in the director’s chair and Emilie Bierre gives an exceptional leading performance — but there are just a few too many inconsistencies for this to be a home run.
Riders of Justice
Mads Mikkelsen is quickly becoming an international superstar, and Riders of Justice provides ample opportunity for him to kick ass in a revenge thriller. And if it isn’t enough to watch Mikkelsen playing an ex-military father avenging the death of his wife by shooting up a biker gang, this is also a surprisingly interesting discussion of psychological trauma. Apart from a few moments of dark humor that don’t quite land, instead feeling somewhat insensitive, this is an entertaining watch from start to finish, with more than a few belly laughs and plenty of great action sequences.
Summer of 85
Filmmaker François Ozon has gotten quite the following for his LGBTQ-centric films, and his newest, Summer of 85, is a lovely summertime gay romance. With serious shades of Call Me By Your Name, this film overcomes its seeming lack of originality with Ozon’s wonderful sense of style and an overall air of fun that radiates throughout the film. It’s one of the more mainstream films in this year’s lineup, and it has what is probably the best soundtrack of any film playing at the festival, so festival-goers will definitely want to check this out.
The Florida Film Festival runs online and in-person in Orlando, Florida from April 9-22, 2021.
By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. As expected, this year’s batch of nominated documentaries spans from highly relevant and political to more personal stories of human interest. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
5. Hunger Ward
It seems that there has to be at least one documentary short nominated that is oppressively bleak to the point of being outright unpleasant to watch, and this year, that is Hunger Ward. Although the topic — starving children in war-torn third-world countries — is one that needs to be discussed, forty minutes of unflinching footage is just too much to bear after a certain point. Granted, this means it did accomplish its goal of horrifying the audience, but shock value alone does not make a powerful documentary.
Anthony Giacchino’s Colette offers an interesting biography of an extraordinary subject, but admittedly, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the other documentaries we have seen about those fighting in the Resistance during WWII. It’s an interesting watch thanks to the fact that it has such a compelling story, but even at a mere twenty-four minutes, it ultimately feels like it stretches on for a bit too long. It holds its own among the nominees, but lacks that special factor to send it above and beyond.
3. A Concerto is a Conversation
Telling the story of co-director Kris Bowers, who is a successful film composer, A Concerto is a Conversation is a magnificent documentary that feels like it could be a winner if this year’s crop wasn’t so strong. Connecting personal experience with artistic expression, this is an intimate and poetic film that is probably the most beautiful of the five nominees. Additionally, the blend of a film-centric story with issues of racial identity are sure to earn this a lot of fans among viewers and voters.
2. A Love Song for Latasha
A Love Song for Latasha is the most ambitious of the five documentary shorts nominated this year, and also probably the most important. An experimental nonfiction film telling the story of a Black teenager who was murdered in a convenience store, one of the inciting factors of the L.A. riots of 1992, this is a soul-crushing film, but in a way that is thought-provoking. Particularly resonant given the recent surge in racially-motivated violence, it seems as if this has a good chance of winning thanks to its timeliness.
1. Do Not Split
There have been some good documentaries about the protests in Hong Kong and the shocking reaction that the Chinese government had to them, and Do Not Split adds another harrowing entry onto that list. There is some absolutely disgusting footage in this film, making it quite hard to watch, but it is still important to have discussions about this type of global event. Anders Hammer made this film very effectively, telling the story of these protestors in a way that is equal parts compelling and frustrating.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films are now in theaters and virtual cinemas.
By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. While the animated selections are usually the most agreeable program, this year’s batch offers a good mix of crowd-pleasing and more experimental shorts. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
Every year, there is at least one nominee in one category that leaves viewers asking why and how it even got nominated in the first place. This year, that film is the Icelandic short Yes-People. Without any linguistic content, the film simply feels like watching a bunch of people doing random things in their day. Although this could theoretically be charming, a lackluster animation style and a lack of character development prevent this from being anything special. It’s almost an insult to the other films in the category that this was included.
4. Genius Loci
Genius Loci is one of the more abstract nominees this year, and while it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, at least it seems to have more of a point. There are some really wonderfully-animated scenes in the film, and the level of artistry on display from filmmaker Adrien Mérigeau shows that he has an exciting level of potential. At best, it’s a bit too much, and at worst, it’s altogether overwhelming, but it is consistently entertaining.
Every year, the Animated nominees include an obligatory Disney/Pixar short, but this year, Burrow isn’t the strongest contender. This cute exercise in world-building will win over some fans with its absolutely adorable animal protagonist, but it lacks the emotional impact that sets apart the best of the studio’s work. There were other films in the SparkShorts series this year, and they seem to have been more acclaimed and focus on more important issues, so why they went with this one is questionable. Still, it’s an easy and accessible watch.
Erick Oh’s short Opera is probably the most ambitious animated short nominated this year, but it isn’t a complete home run. There are some really interesting things happening in this intricate and detailed world in a mere nine minutes, so much so that viewers (and voters) may find themselves confused and overwhelmed after seeing it for the first time. That said, this is certainly a memorable film, and it demands repeat viewings and is conducive to discussion, which bodes well for people paying attention to it.
1. If Anything Happens I Love You
The best film in the category by a long shot, even if it isn’t perfect, If Anything Happens I Love You is a beautifully-made film telling a soul-crushing story. Although some will understandably accuse it of tear-jerking for the sake of it, this film will really resonate with audiences in a way that none of the other animated shorts do. And on top of that, it has the support of Netflix behind it, which can go a long way in marketing something in a lower-profile category like this.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films hit theaters and virtual cinemas on April 2.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.