By Sean Boelman and the disappointment media Staff
Last Updated: 1/14/2021
Note: Commentary does not include films not yet screened.
One of the safest bets right now seems to be Chloe Zhao’s road movie Nomadland (Searchlight). Gaining support in the directing, screenplay, and Best Actress categories, in addition to a slew of below-the-line plays, the film seems likely to pick up a lot of nominations, and likely even win a few trophies. However, it is possible that the Academy may go for something a little less subtle for its highest honor.
Also a major player is Regina King’s feature directorial debut One Night in Miami (Amazon). The film picked up a lot of initial steam in the acting categories after its festival debut but seems to have lost most of it since, apart from supporting actor Leslie Odom Jr. and a long-shot nomination for Kingsley Ben-Adir. However, we can expect this to easily lock in a Best Picture nomination, in addition to directing and screenwriting nods (and possibly wins).
Netflix has a sure-fire nominee in David Fincher’s Mank, if only from goodwill for the director and the industry-centric nature of the film. That said, this seems like the type of film that will rack up a bunch of nominations but strike out with the exception of one or two minor wins. And since Netflix has such a robust awards slate this year, this is one of the tougher sells for the big win.
Other Netflix titles that seem pretty likely to get a nomination are The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Aaron Sorkin still has plenty enough goodwill for his newest film to get a nod, even if there are also other films about civil rights in play this year. As for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, love for the work of playwright August Wilson in addition to support for the late Chadwick Boseman’s performance make it a likely contender.
Perhaps the most unlikely frontrunner is Emerald Fennell’s darkly comedic thriller Promising Young Woman (Focus). At first glance, one wouldn’t expect this to make that much of a splash, but it is gaining a lot of support from the screenwriting and acting branches. It may not have enough buzz to win, but with the preferential ballot system, it should get the required mentions to get a nomination.
Those six films seem like the most likely to be in play for the big honor. However, with the way the category is set up, there could be anywhere from five to ten nominees. In this unorthodox year, it’s possible that there is a diverse enough crop of films to get a full slate, but it seems more likely that there will only be eight or nine players. But what will get those last few spots?
There seems to be a lot of support for Spike Lee’s latest, Da 5 Bloods. Delroy Lindo is becoming quite the underdog in the Best Actor race. Yet with an early summer release date, and the fact that Netflix has a bunch of other releases that they seem to be pushing harder, it’s entirely possible that this one gets lost in the shuffle.
The sole contender from Sony Pictures Classics, who has been one of the few studios supporting theaters during the pandemic, is Florian Zeller’s The Father. It’s all but guaranteed to get a nomination in Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, but will that be enough to push it towards the top of the pack?
Another studio with only one player is STX. Unfortunately for the political thriller The Mauritanian, though, STX is pretty new to the awards game. Last year, there seemed to be a campaign for Jennifer Lopez ramping up for Hustlers, but it lost steam at the last minute. The Mauritanian is good, maybe enough so to get that ninth or tenth spot, but that inexperience could let the film down.
Indie studio A24 has two contenders after sitting out most of the year, but both seem to be fighting for a tenth spot that probably won’t exist. Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow are both very good films that have gotten a lot of critical praise, but they seem to be too low-key to really connect with voters, especially when another quiet film (Nomadland) is getting more buzz.
Other possible contenders include Amazon’s Sound of Metal, which will pick up some technical and acting nods but doesn’t have the widespread support to get a spot, Universal’s News of the World, which is one of the few contenders from a major studio but is utterly forgettable, and Disney’s Soul, which has a lot of support but isn’t likely to get much attention outside of the Animated and Score categories. Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger (Netflix) is pretty excellent and has a small chance of making it in should the right people connect with it.
As for non-starters, Netflix has quite a few. Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy is not a very good film and will be fighting for a sole Best Supporting Actress nod for Glenn Close. The Dig is surprisingly good, but too slight to make much of a splash above-the-line. Pieces of a Woman may pick up nominations for Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn, but had its overall hopes quashed by controversy. And The Midnight Sky and The Prom are both entertaining, but don’t seem to have the praise that they’d need to make a showing.
Apple TV+ has two films that feel like awards bait, but will likely be ignored in this socially-conscious year. The best chance for Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks is a Supporting Actor nod for Bill Murray, but even that seems unlikely as it is her worst film in years. The Justin Timberlake-starring Palmer is good, but just a sentimental crowd-pleaser. Still, it deserves to be in the conversation more than Hillbilly Elegy.
NEON will almost certainly be completely absent from the Best Picture race this year after bringing Parasite to a win. Their only legitimate contender is Ammonite, a pretty but otherwise mediocre period piece that is unlikely to turn any heads. Palm Springs (co-distributed with Hulu) is fun, and might be a long-shot for screenplay, but doesn’t seem like a serious player.
Of course, there are also films submitted for consideration that everyone knows won’t have a shot. Warner Bros. is mounting campaigns for Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, but their chances are virtually nonexistent. Other films, like Lionsgate’s Antebellum and Fatale seem to be getting FYC campaigns out of contractual obligation.
Yes, it is shaping up to be one of the more predictable Best Picture races in recent memory. At this point, it’s starting to become relatively clear what will and won’t be in contention after all is said and done. After those last few wild cards end up screening, it should be easy to call where everything is going to land.
Sean Boelman's Picks
2. One Night in Miami
4. The Trial of the Chicago 7
5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
6. Promising Young Woman
7. Da 5 Bloods
8. The Father
9. The Mauritanian
11. Sound of Metal
12. News of the World
13. First Cow
15. The White Tiger
Camden Ferrell's Picks
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. One Night in Miami
6. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
7. Promising Young Woman
8. Da 5 Bloods
10. First Cow
11. Sound of Metal
Dan Skip Allen's Picks
2. One Night in Miami
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. Promising Young Woman
5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
7. The Father
9. Pieces of a Woman
10. News of the World
11. Sound of Metal
12. First Cow
By Sean Boelman
On January 14, 2021, the South by Southwest film festival announced select titles that will be screening as part of the 2021 program ahead of the full program announcement on February 10, 2021. The festival, which will occur in an online-only fashion this year, will take place from March 16-20, 2021.
The most significant announcement made is that the opening night Headliner selection will be the YouTube Originals documentary series Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil. A highly personal documentary exploring both Lovato’s career and struggles with addiction, this is sure to be an interesting watch for the music fan database to which the festival frequently caters.
Also for music fans is the North American premiere of the documentary Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, which will screen as a part of the 24 Beats Per Second section. Other documentary selections include Joe Berlinger’s Confronting a Serial Killer (Episodic Premieres), Nathaniel Kahn’s The Hunt for Planet B (Documentary Spotlight), Andrea Nevins’s Hysterical (Documentary Spotlight), and Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim’s Luchadoras (Global).
In terms of narrative features, highlights include the newest film from SXSW alumnus Travis Stevens, Jakob’s Wife (Midnighters). Starring genre favorites Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessendsen, the film is sure to be a must-watch for anyone who frequents the iconic late-night portion of the festival.
Also slated to debut is Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek’s COVID-19 feature Recovery. Exploring an outbreak in a nursing home, the film will definitely dial into current anxiety about the pandemic. Other recent festivals have included films produced and set during the pandemic, so we can expect that to be the case for the near future.
The final film that was announced to be a part of this year’s lineup was Justine Bateman’s Violet. What makes this film so interesting is that it was also a part of the 2020 lineup during the cancelled festival. And while some of the finest films of last year’s selection went on to debut at other festivals or even get released in the meantime, there were still some films left displaced. The “2020 Spotlight” section of SXSW will provide a launching pad for those which have been holding out for a more favorable time to debut.
With the extraordinary nature of what is going on in the world, it is nice to see that the folks at SXSW are still planning a great festival for fans. And since the selection can be watched from hope, hopefully some of these great films and series will be able to reach new audiences and introduce them to a version of the festival experience.
The 2021 edition of SXSW runs online from March 16-20, 2021.
By Sean Boelman
Even though this year saw some unfortunate changes in the way in which films were viewed, there were still plenty of memorable releases. And while some great movies decided to stick it out to 2021 in the hopes of receiving a full-force theatrical release or to take advantage of the extended awards eligibility windows, 2020 offered some great flicks. Here are some of our favorites.
Note: Due to repeated infractions against disappointment media's strict anti-gatekeeping policy, all Netflix titles have been blacklisted from coverage on the site for a period of 30 days. This includes mentions in this article.
10. The Donut King
Telling the story of Cambodian immigrant Ted Ngoy, Alice Gu’s The Donut King is arguably one of the most poignant documentaries to come out in 2020. And while this is certainly a treat for foodies — because who doesn’t love donuts, after all — the focus is more on exploring the American Dream and Ngoy’s struggles with addiction and how they influenced his unlikely empire. Of course, the cinematography is pretty gorgeous, particularly when it comes to those delicious-looking food shots, thanks to Gu’s previous experience as a cinematographer, but it is the story that will cause this film to stick with viewers.
9. David Byrne's American Utopia
David Byrne, former frontman of the Talking Heads, already had one of the greatest concert documentaries of all time made about him (Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense), and now he has two with David Byrne’s American Utopia. Directed by master filmmaker Spike Lee, this is a truly joyous experience, the magic of Byrne’s music translating to the screen in an absolutely wonderful fashion. However, Lee’s touch on the film is obvious and welcome, as the more socially-conscious elements of the show have quite the impact. Offering both thought-provoking commentary and serious escapism, this film really embodies 2020.
8. Sound of Metal
The directorial debut of frequent Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) collaborator Darius Marder, Sound of Metal is brilliant. Although it took a little over a year after its 2019 TIFF debut to make its way to wider audiences, it was worth the wait, as its powerfully subtle story about a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing is touching and harrowing. Riz Ahmed delivers the finest performance of his already prolific career, and the sound design is truly magnificent and ambitious, cementing this as not only one of the best first features of the year, but also one of the best films of the year in general.
7. Farewell Amor
The second film on this list about the immigrant experience, Ekwa Msangi’s Farewell Amor starts seeming like it is going to be a relatively straightforward family drama but adds layer upon layer of nuance. This film about an immigrant family reuniting in the United States after spending many years apart doesn’t aim for the easy targets, with a few familiar plot points, but mostly focusing on the ones that are uniquely heartwarming. The ambitious nonlinear structure is also an ambitious swing for the fences, and it delivers, allowing this to be a phenomenal character study.
6. Bad Hair
Six years after his fan-favorite satire Dear White People, filmmaker Justin Simien’s sophomore feature Bad Hair offers an entertaining and insightful blend of social commentary, laughs, and thrills. The film follows an aspiring professional in 1980s music television who discovers that her weave may have a supernatural connection. It’s definitely a plus that the film is both hilarious and legitimately scary, but what really stands out is the way in which Simien immerses the viewer in the film. Both in terms of the ‘80s culture and the mythological foundations of the story, the film is very detailed, and that goes a long way in making it feel more atmospheric.
Artist, activist, and filmmaker Ai Weiwei has delivered one of the year’s most important films with his documentary Cockroach. Even though the film may not be the most pleasant watch, this portrait of the protests in Hong Kong is urgent in every sense of the word. Utilizing repetition and an interesting soundscape, Wewei’s film has an interesting and challenging emotional effect. Some viewers may be put off by the graphic and unflinching nature of the footage used in the film, but it is meant to be upsetting and infuriating. This is the social activism film of the year.
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Although its theatrical release was derailed because it started right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit its full force, Eliza Hittman’s exceptional Never Rarely Sometimes Always has still found the respect it deserves. Following two teenage girls who must travel from their conservative community to New York City in order for one of them to receive an abortion, this is undoubtedly one of the most emotional watches of the year. Additionally, lead actress Sidney Flanigan stands out in her very first role, giving one of the finest and most nuanced performances of the year.
3. Boys State
Even though it may be about teenage boys forming a mock government, Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’s documentary Boys State reveals a lot about the state of our country right now. Equal parts funny, endearing, and disturbing, McBaine and Moss draw the viewer into this story in an unexpected way. Shot and edited dynamically and making its subjects very compelling, this documentary is thoroughly entertaining while still maintaining its depth and substantial material. Since 2020 was an election year, it was filled with political documentaries, and this stood out as the most unique, and arguably the most effective.
2. The Climb
Michael Angelo Covino’s buddy dramedy The Climb represents the best of what independent filmmaking has to offer. Featuring a brilliant screenplay brought to life by two charismatic performances and a kinetic shooting style, this is one of the funniest movies of the year. Taking the form of different scenes from the central friendship, the film includes some really impressive long takes. However, Covino’s film isn’t the flashy and gimmicky type. Instead, it is the charm of the performances and relatability of the script that really causes this one to stand out.
1. She Dies Tomorrow
Amy Seimetz has received her due in the film community thanks to her talents as an actress, but it’s about time she is recognized as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Her surreal and hypnotic thriller She Dies Tomorrow was extremely lucky to have been released in the middle of a global pandemic, but its message about paranoia and fear would ring true in any age. It has been divisive among audiences because of its loose narrative, but its dedicated fanbase has stood behind its gorgeous visuals and darkly funny moments. If any film screams 2020, it’s She Dies Tomorrow.
What were your favorite movies of 2020? Let us know!
By Sean Boelman
Like so many other festivals this year, DOC NYC saw its plans change as a result of the pandemic we are all facing right now. However, the circumstances didn’t stop organizers from bringing some excellent nonfiction cinema to viewers across the country. Often a precursor to end of year awards, the DOC NYC lineup features a wide and diverse selection of films, and below are some of our favorites.
La Madrina: The [Savage] Life of Lorine Padilla
Raquel Cepeda’s La Madrina: The [Savage] Life of Lorine Padilla is the type of documentary that will hook viewers with an interesting story but leave them thinking something else entirely. On one hand, this is about the history of a notorious Bronx gang, but there is so much more going on in this film beneath the surface. A surprisingly hard-hitting exploration of the poverty that has decimated the BIPOC community in New York City, the film shows not only how the system has it out for the little guy, but also how the little guy can stand up and fight back against the system.
The Viewing Booth
The Viewing Booth isn’t an easy film to recommend, because it isn’t conventional in any sense of the world. In fact, the idea of watching a filmmaker having a conversation with a Jewish-American student may not sound like the most riveting way to spend seventy minutes. That said, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz does a phenomenal job with his film, creating a film that functions on multiple levels. As an examination of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the film poses some interesting questions, but perhaps more fascinating are those ideas which Alexandrowicz challenges about the public’s interaction with the media.
Frank Zappa is without a doubt one of the most iconic and eclectic musicians in all of history. Even if one doesn’t exactly understand what he did, it’s impossible not to admire the way in which he experimented with his art. Filmmaker Alex Winter translates that awe into a captivating cinematic experience with his archival documentary Zappa, which utilizes the extensive collection of materials that Zappa preserved before his death. Avoiding the pitfalls of most biographical documentaries about musicians, Winter is less concerned here with nostalgia, instead focusing on preserving his subject’s legacy.
Elizabeth St. Philip’s 9/11 Kids may be one of the least feel-good documentaries in this year’s DOC NYC lineup, but that doesn’t make it any less of an important watch. Exploring the lives of the children who were with President Bush when the World Trade Center attacks happened, this film is less about that tragic day and more about how society has re-adjusted post-9/11. With hints of the Up series, St. Philip approaches her subjects with a unique empathy that makes the story resonate even harder than one would expect.
9to5: The Story of a Movement
Hot off their Academy Award win for Best Documentary for American Factory, documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert are back at it with 9to5: The Story of a Movement, again exploring labor issues. Although it isn’t as eye-opening or emotionally affecting as their last work, this more historical approach to labor movements throughout the years offers some interesting insight into some important issues. And unlike some of the other documentaries mentioned on this list, Bognar and Reichert’s film goes down comparatively easy, with slick editing and fast pacing keeping things consistently entertaining.
And this is just a sampling of the great documentaries screening online as a part of this year’s DOC NYC! You definitely won’t want to miss the chance to get to see some of these wonderful films now so that you can be in on the conversation when everyone else is talking about them come awards season!
The 2020 virtual edition of DOC NYC runs November 11-19.
By Sean Boelman
Based in New York City, NewFest is one of the leading LGBTQ film festivals. Due to current circumstances, the 32nd edition of the event was forced to go almost entirely virtual (with the exception of drive-in screenings of Ammonite and Uncle Frank), but they still presented some absolutely wonderful programming from diverse voices. We at disappointment media got the chance to check out some of the films playing at the festival, and here are some of our thoughts.
The thing that works so well about Matthew Fifer and Kieran Mulcare’s Cicada is Fifer’s performance in the lead role. This story of two gay men struggling with romance in New York City is a pretty run-of-the-mill relationship drama, but the level of rawness and intensity that the script brings to these familiar ideas is pretty magnificent. Fifer’s chemistry with co-star Sheldon D. Brown (who also contributed to the story) lights up the screen, selling the love story very well. Ultimately, the film seems designed to be an acting showcase for the two leads, and in that regard, it succeeds completely.
Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie's Dead Aunt)
Offering an authentic and charming spin on familiar coming-of-age tropes, Monica Zanetti’s romantic comedy Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt) is the type of quirky, feel-good crowd-pleaser that seems destined to earn itself a cult following. Following a shy teenage girl who is trying to gather up the courage to ask her crush to the school dance when she receives a visit from the ghost of her dead aunt offering guidance, the beats here are mostly predictable, but there’s plenty enough humor and emotion in Zanetti’s script for it to be both an entertaining and a heartwarming watch.
The family comedy Gossamer Folds is one of those movies that is so wholesome and has such a good heart that one can’t help but find it cute despite its flaws. And this story about a young boy having his first encounter with the LGBTQ community has a solid amount of problems of its own, beginning with the way in which it presents trans issues from a predominantly cis perspective. Writer Bridget Flanery gets points for having mostly three-dimensional characters, but Lisa Donato’s filmmaking is a bit too sentimental for its own good. Great performances from Jackson Robert Scott and Alexandra Grey save the day, though.
Filmmaker Hong Khaou’s sophomore feature Monsoon may not have the most substantial of narratives, but it’s a restrained and gorgeous character study. Following a British-Vietnamese man who returns to his homeland for the first time in decades after the death of his parents, this is mostly a bunch of conversations and stray observations about grief and identity, but it’s a compelling watch nevertheless. In the lead role, Henry Golding is great, delivering a much more quiet yet still charismatic turn compared to those that burst him onto the scene. But the most valuable player is cinematographer Benjamin Kracun, whose picturesque photography of Vietnam gives the film much of its beauty.
Filmed during the pandemic, Ryan Spahn’s Nora Highland is probably the most unique selection in this year’s lineup. Exploring the casting issues involving LGBTQ characters on Broadway (and by extension, in Hollywood), the story is fascinating and deals with some important issues. The structure is divided into three acts, and the middle one, which stars Marin Ireland and Michael Hsu Rosen, is certainly the best and most impactful, but the first and final thirds each have some funny and thoughtful moments. Some of the stylistic quirks that Spahn adds to compensate for the unique shooting style don’t always land, but given what he had to work with, the film is a relative success.
The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
Perhaps the single most important film that played as a part of this year’s NewFest lineup, Everybody Hates Chris co-creator Ali Leroi’s feature directorial debut The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is absolutely magnificent. Following an African-American teenager who gets stuck in a loop reliving his death at the hands of the police, this blend of teen angst drama with eerily timely commentary and the story of a kid trying to come into his sexual and racial identity is absolutely heartbreaking. Stanley Kalu’s script pulls no punches, making him a discovery waiting to happen.
A feature film edit of a New Zealander television series, Max Currie’s Rūrangi is undeniably well-intentioned, but it gets a bit too caught up in melodrama to be as thought-provoking as it should be. Following a trans activist who reluctantly returns to his hometown, the intention of the story to take a serial form is clear because there are multiple supporting characters with fully-developed and self-contained subplots. It’s a compelling story, and Elz Carrad is an extremely likable lead, but Currie can’t escape an overwhelmingly soapy feeling. It seems to have been designed for a television format and likely would have worked better in that setting as well.
A lot of travelogues tend to feel somewhat shallow and directionless, but that couldn’t be further from the case for Eytan Fox’s thoughtful drama Sublet. This story of a middle-aged travel writer visiting Tel Aviv who strikes up a relationship with his younger Israeli host may be straightforward and direct with its themes, but it still manages to have its full emotional impact. The two stars, John Benjamin Hickey and Niv Nissim, have great chemistry together, but also bring their own nuance to their respective roles. And of course, cinematography highlighting the beautiful streets of Tel Aviv is a highlight as expected.
The lower-profile of the two anxiety-inducing dramedies starring Rachel Sennott in this year’s lineup (the other being Shiva Baby), Tahara is an enormously ambitious film reinforcing the need for new and authentic voices in cinema. Following a teen girl who suspects that she is developing feelings for her longtime best friend after an awkward romantic encounter at a funeral, there’s a lot going on in this story, and not everything pays off because of how many ideas writer Jess Zeidman tries to juggle in less than an hour and twenty minutes, but Olivia Peace’s confident and stylish directing makes the film memorable regardless.
Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation
Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams are two of the most prolific American writers of all time, and that makes them true LGBTQ icons. Exploring their literary careers, sexuality, and shared friendship, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is a wonderful ode to them as artists and creators. Using predominantly archive materials and a surprisingly good voiceover narration from Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto as Capote and Williams, respectively, Vreeland is able to capture the poeticism that made both writers’ work so groundbreaking while still providing a meaningful biography at the same time.
Two of Us
There has been a recent uptick in films lately depicting late-life LGBTQ romances, and it’s frankly pretty adorable. Fillipo Meneghetti may not reinvent the wheel with Two of Us, but for what it is, the film is satisfyingly charming and lovely. Admittedly, this story of two retirees sharing a secret love isn’t as funny nor as moving as one would hope, though its hour-and-a-half runtime still breezes by. Aided by wonderfully humanistic performances from Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa, Meneghetti delivers a romance that serves as a perfect reminder of how love conquers all and isn’t restricted by the boundaries of age.
Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’s thriller White Lie is one of the more challenging films that was in this year’s NewFest lineup, not because it deals with particularly weighty themes, but because it deals in moral ambiguity. Following a popular college student whose money-making and sympathy-gaining ruse begins to fall apart, it’s undeniable that the character here isn’t particularly likable, but there is still something oddly compelling about her story. A slow burn that builds its tension from the audience being in on the secret rather than trying to figure it out, this is a bit too layered to be mainstream, but is riveting nevertheless.
The 2020 NewFest Film Festival ran virtually from October 16-27.
By Sean Boelman
This year’s Toronto International Film Festival featured a reduced lineup of just fifty films, but even so, it would have been impossible for anyone to maintain their sanity while watching and reviewing every single one. Still, between the Official Selection and the Industry Selects sidebar, which added even more to the slate, disappointment media was able to catch a total of fifty-six feature films! Below are some of the films in the Official Selection that we didn’t get the chance to do a full review for, but we wanted to highlight anyway.
Manijeh Hekmat’s road movie Bandar Band was one of the more alluring international offerings of this year’s Official Selection, but it didn’t live up to that potential. Following a band who travels through the flooded roads to Tehran, the film struggles to find a balance between meditative and joyous. Had the film been able to narrow itself down to one of its two purposes — an ode to music or a hard-hitting film about political issues — it would have been far more compelling. As is, it’s just a bunch of inconsistent scenes strewn together with a loose narrative.
The second runner-up in this year’s Audience Award voting, Tracey Deer’s coming-of-age drama Beans isn’t the average uplifting crowd-pleaser. Sure, the film does hit a lot of familiar beats, but they are presented with such an authentic voice that the end result doesn’t feel overly conventional. Exploring the Indigenous experience in a way that is empathetic and accessible to general audiences without pulling a lot of the punches that the genre is known to shy away from, it’s an entertaining and thoughtful film. And Kiawentiio is a star in the making with her phenomenal lead performance.
The Best is Yet to Come
The journalism drama The Best is Yet to Come is sure to leave viewers nostalgic for the era in which print journalism actually mattered to the public. And while print still very much matters as a medium, the story of this film doesn’t. The audience will undeniably care far more about the journalist’s experience than the issue which he is investigating. This may not be an inherently bad thing, but it also doesn’t sustain a nearly two-hour runtime. It simply lacks the scope of the more riveting entries in the genre, causing it to be mostly forgettable.
At every festival, there seems to be at least one film that gets in based on its star power alone, and this year, it’s Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut Falling. Even though this story of a gay man trying to teach his elderly homophobic father some empathy is undeniably well-intentioned, it’s so misguided in its execution that it feels like a ticking time bomb that just barely manages to not explode. And if listening to an old man shouting homophobic rhetoric isn’t off-putting enough, the film features one of the year’s most truly bizarre sequences in which a young boy becomes enamored with a duck he shot.
Gaza mon amour
The Nasser Brothers’ romantic drama Gaza mon amour is a nice little movie and a welcome relief from the noticeably somber tone of much of the Official Selection. That said, this film about a man trying to court the woman with whom he is secretly in love is the very definition of slight. There are definitely some great things about it, like an excellent performance from Salim Dau, but other parts feel extremely underwhelming. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the film is that the extremely talented Hiam Abbass, who plays the love interest, isn’t used to her fullest abilities.
Get the Hell Out
The Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival is well-known to bring out some of the weirdest and most messed up movies of the festival circuit, and the Taiwanese zombie flick Get the Hell Out fits one of those two descriptions. Unfortunately, despite a really interesting premise, the commentary is underbaked and the visual style is inconsistent at best. A few bursts of satisfyingly gory violence and the occasionally witty one-liner don’t make up for the film’s lack of substance. With a more experienced director at the helm, this could have been much more entertaining than it is.
I Am Greta
Greta Thunberg has done some exceptional things in her life already despite being as young as she is. And while the cause for which she fights is undeniably a good one, and her accomplishments speak for themselves, she doesn’t yet have enough of a command of her persona to carry a documentary. It also doesn’t help that Nathan Grossman’s documentary is painfully conventional, causing it to be little more than a dull and straightforward biography. Those who are a “fan” of Thunberg’s work will be interested in this, but most others will find themselves a bit bored by its lack of depth.
One of the more ambitious and unconventional documentary offerings of this year’s festival, Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian brings author Thomas King’s book to the screen. This deconstruction of the colonization of Native Americans is absolutely fascinating. Making use of abstract imagery complemented by commentary from King, this is a very profound film. Admittedly, there is quite a bit going on here in a short ninety minutes, so the film feels a bit busy as a result. Nevertheless, Latimer’s passion for and connection with the source material is evident, and this allows her to craft a film that is completely captivating from start to finish.
Ben Sharrock’s dark comedy Limbo gets off to a running start with a quirky introduction that shows the film’s potential to be a commentary on the very important issue of immigration. That said, after this initial intrigue wears off, the film turns into something much more conventional. Following a young immigrant alone in a foreign country waiting on the status of his immigration paperwork, the film struggles to find that balance between the satirical and the somber and meditative. Still, thanks to some excellent character work, it manages to be mostly compelling, even if it falls short in a few other departments.
A Brazilian thriller with a darkly comedic edge, João Paulo Miranda Maria’s film Memory House would make a great double-bill with the indie favorite Bacurau. Following a factory worker who comes across a house that reminds him of his cultural origins, the film’s unique pacing will prevent it from connecting with most general audiences. Regardless, the observations that the filmmaker offers about cultural identity are quite insightful, and it is quite fascinating as such. The true highlight of the film, though, are its haunting visuals which create a nightmarish world rich in Latin American history and culture.
What is sure to be the most divisive film to come out of this year’s lineup, Michael Franco’s New Order is an absolute mess, but in the best way possible. Taking place in a city experiencing unrest that turns into full-on class warfare, the film is disturbing and brutal, but to powerful effect. Anyone who is Latino can tell you that Latin American history is covered with blood, and Franco does an excellent job of showing how these cultures are not as pretty as they may seem. There are a few issues, but for the most part, it’s powerful stuff.
No Ordinary Man
Although No Ordinary Man is at face value a biography of a trans masculine icon, it is also so much more. In their exploration of the life of Jazz musician Billy Tipton, filmmakers Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt explore not just Tipton’s life, but the way in which society tends to remember LGBTQ+ individuals and their experiences. Although there are some moments that utilize traditional documentary techniques, like archive footage and talking heads, it is the other, more innovative approaches to this story that will make it stand out. As the title would suggest, this is no ordinary biography.
Adapted from her own short, Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby is a wonderful and brisk little comedy. Taking place nearly in real time, the film follows a young woman who runs into her sugar daddy while attending a funeral with her family. This is one of those comedies that really relies on secondhand embarrassment to milk an uncomfortable laughter out of the audience, and boy does Seligman succeed at that. It’s a truly hilarious exploration of familial bonds, among other things, and features some great performances to boot from Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, and Fred Melamed.
Young filmmaker Suzanne Lindon’s debut Spring Blossom is mostly notable because she wrote it as a teenager, and for a first film, it’s quite good. It’s definitely a very slight film, more impressive as a statement of the potential that Lindon has than a demonstration of it in action, but it’s a pretty enjoyable romance/coming-of-age film. Lindon’s best work in the film is arguably not as the writer or director, though — it’s in her leading role as the actress. It will definitely be exciting to get to see her do some more work with someone else at the helm.
Summer of 85
François Ozon has become known in recent years for making films that push the envelope, and while Summer of 85 may be a bit more safe, it’s still a tremendous work. A summer love movie with a dark twist, Ozon appears to be using this familiar story in unfamiliar ways, recapturing some of the stereotypes and cliches of LGBTQ+ cinema. Excellent performances from Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin ground the film, but it is Hichame Alaouie’s cinematography that is the real MVP. It’s an entertaining and breezy film that is a much more substantial alternative to the typical teen romance.
Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers has a really interesting concept, but it quickly devolves into little more than an upscale melodrama. Great cinematography and excellent performances can’t save a script that starts strong but goes all-in on the histrionics after the first act is over. Telling the story of a woman who is contacted by her adopted child’s birth mother, the convoluted narrative structure results in this film being about thirty minutes too long. Kawase shows a lot of talent behind the camera, but unfortunately, this is a film that easily could have benefitted from a substantial re-write.
Under the Open Sky
Miwa Nishikawa’s drama Under the Open Sky feels very long despite only clocking in at just under two hours. This story about a former yakuza trying to re-integrate himself into society simply isn’t as interesting as it should have been. There are definitely some things going for the film, like a phenomenal performance from Koji Yakusho and some solid cinematography by Norimichi Kasamatsu, but it feels like too much of the same old stuff we’ve seen countless times before. A few good moments aside, this film is fine but forgettable, which is a shame given the amount of talent involved.
Stacey Lee’s music documentary Underplayed deals with a tremendously important issue: gender inequality. However, in depicting the success of these great female DJs in the face of the adversity and opposition they have faced, Lee fails to do anything but shallowly inspire. Had she focused specifically on two or three of these artists, she would have been able to go into more depth on their experiences and how they are indicative of the industry as a whole. This general survey is still nice, and it obviously offers the opportunity to listen to some great beats, but otherwise, it doesn’t live up to its potential.
Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer have made some truly harrowing shorts, so their feature debut Violation had a very high bar to meet. Unfortunately, despite some interesting ideas and a few disturbing moments, the film largely falls flat. This definitely isn’t a standard rape-revenge thriller, but it’s a character drama without much interesting character work. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer try to leave too much unspoken and as a result fail to convey much of anything. It’s an eighty-minute movie stretched into over an hour-and-forty-five, and apart from one anxiety-inducing scene, it will test the viewer's patience.
The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival ran September 10-19.
By Sean Boelman
Because of the reduced number of films that the festival was able to screen due to the unique challenges faced for this year’s edition, the Toronto International Film Festival debuted a new Industry Selects sidebar. These films, still receiving the honor of being recognized by the festival outside of the Official Selection, screened for press and industry and the festival. The following are some of those films.
The feature debut of Greek writer-director Christos Nikou, who worked as the second assistant director on Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, Apples is an unusual film that feels destined to find success on the art house circuit. Telling the story of a middle-aged man who falls victim to a pandemic that causes the sudden onset of amnesia, it may lack the dryly satirical edge that makes Lanthimos’s films so beloved, but it makes up for it in its existential musings on memory and identity. And lead actor Aris Servetalis gives a great performance, elevating the film from above average to legitimately memorable.
In Between Dying
Hilal Baydarov’s In Between Dying is a wandering movie in both a literal and a metaphorical sense. Following a young man searching for meaning in life, it definitely feels like there is a lot to dissect here, but the audience is never really given a reason as to why they should. Lacking either the narrative strength or the character development to justify its occasionally meditative rambling. It’s an absolutely gorgeous film to look at thanks to some beautiful scenery and great cinematography by Elshan Abbasov, but it works better as pleasant background noise than a compelling cinematic experience.
Kill It and Leave This Town
As an avant garde animated film, Mariusz Wilczynski’s fascinating Kill It and Leave This Town shows the tremendous potential that the medium has beyond the constraints of traditional storytelling. A surreal and often trippy voyage through the memories of the protagonist, it’s a very bizarre film that is likely to be a bit too much for most tastes. And while the animation style of the film isn’t what one would usually call attractive, as it is quite harsh and rudimentary in nature, it offers some uniquely nightmarish images. It very well may test some viewers’ patience, but it is absolutely worth the resolve.
Like a House on Fire
The relationship drama Like a House on Fire throws a very unique twist on a familiar story. About a young mother trying to reconnect with her estranged husband and their daughter, Jesse Noah Klein’s film feels intensely personal and hits much harder than expected. Of course, the film owes a lot to the powerful performances given by its two leads, Sarah Sutherland and Jared Abrahamson, but there is just a lot of empathy in Klein’s script. This is one of those films that is understandably very difficult to watch, but is rewarding nevertheless as a challenging, emotional experience.
Argyris Papadimitropoulos’s romance Monday obviously wants to be something more profound than it is, but it works just fine as a breezy summer romance. A snapshot of a relationship between two American expats living in Greece, the film is at its best when it lets its characters just have fun and struggles a bit when it tries to do something more substantial, almost crossing the line into melodrama. The chemistry between the two leads, Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough, is probably the single most important factor in selling this film’s emotion, but slick cinematography by Hristos Karamanis and a good score by Alexis Grapsas seal the deal.
My Best Part
The comedy-drama My Best Part, co-written, directed by, and starring Nicolas Maury, is probably one of the biggest disappointments to come out of this year’s market — not because it’s the worst, but because it showed the most potential. There are plenty of glimmers of greatness in this film about an actor who returns to his childhood home after his breaking point, but too often, the film comes across as annoying and out-of-touch. Despite a committed performance from Maury, the character is whiny and unlikable, and it’s a significant hurdle that the film is never able to overcome.
Based on a bestselling book from the nineties, Danielle Arbid’s Passion Simple appears designed to have cashed in on the demand for mainstream erotica, but came a couple years too late. Tracking a relationship between a mother and a Russian diplomat, the film is watchable and has some solid cinematography and a great soundtrack, but it’s too low-brow for the art house and too cold for the horny crowd. As the title suggests, it’s a pretty simple film, with very little about it that isn’t straightforward. One just wishes that Arbid could have spared some more creativity for the steamy scenes.
The newest film from cult filmmaker Bruce La Bruce, Saint-Narcisse is the type of film that would have been in an expanded Midnight Madness lineup in a more normal year. A noir-tinged and darkly-comedic mystery about a man who sets out to better understand his past and makes some surprising discoveries along the way, it’s a weird and campy movie in many regards. And while the film’s occasionally extreme content and handling of taboo issues may put off some viewers, it will definitely catch the attention of those more daring fans of the festival circuit.
Like an edgier version of last year’s Les Misérables, the police thriller Shorta serves as a much-needed contribution to the discussion of police brutality. And although audiences probably don’t want to see more movies about cops at the moment, this film about two police officers who get trapped when news gets out of a deadly shooting really dissects the ways in which the law enforcement system is fundamentally broken. Though the action and suspense is undeniably the focus of filmmakers Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm, there is a lot beneath the surface here that makes it worth a watch.
Having earned a lot of comparisons to last year’s Marriage Story because of their similar themes, Baumbach’s film and Daniele Luchetti’s The Ties differ quite a bit narratively. Exploring a marriage in crisis over several years as the parties attempt to stay together for the sake of their children, it’s an undeniably emotional watch. The segmented narrative, as would be expected, has some moments that are much stronger than others, but as a whole, the level of empathy with which the film treats its story and characters goes a long way in making it feel more resonant.
Well-made but disappointingly straightforward, Zaida Bergroth’s biopic Tove had the potential to be something really interesting but falls victim to a few too many cliches to be particularly memorable. Dramatizing the story of Tove Jansson, the artist and creator of the Moomins, the biggest issue of the film is Eeva Putro and Jarno Elonen’s script, which is simply too busy. By attempting to juggle too many storylines, the film ultimately falls flat when it could have been something more compelling had it been streamlined. Still, Alma Pöysti’s performance saves the film from landing in failed biopic obscurity.
Never Gonna Snow Again
Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert’s film Never Gonna Snow Again is the only film of this group that was not a participant in thse Industry Selects sidebar, and rather just screened for press and industry via an online private screening via the festival’s platform, and interestingly enough, it may be the best of the bunch. An unabashedly weird and meditative film about a masseur who offers guidance to his much more wealthy clients, this is one of those multi-layered films that immediately demands multiple viewings. Its idiosyncratic nature makes its commercial prospects low, but when its audience finds it, it will undoubtedly be among their favorites of the year.
The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival ran from September 10-19.
By Sean Boelman
As part of the “new normal”, disappointment media has been providing coverage of virtual and hybrid film festivals and the films that are a part of their official lineup. While we would love to be on the ground in Toronto covering films for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, we also realize that the U.S. is in much worse shape than Canada, so it wouldn’t be fair of us to our Northern neighbors to travel at this time.
Still, disappointment media was honored to be selected to participate in remote coverage of the festival as a part of the Media Inclusion Initiative. That means we will be getting to watch some great films and access exciting conference events (from the safety of our home) and report back to you about what you should keep an eye out for.
Although the Official Selection for this year’s TIFF was reduced to just fifty films, a fraction of what it would be in normal circumstances, those films that were selected are sure to be exciting! Presented with a combination of in-person traditional, open-air, drive-in, and virtual screenings (geoblocked to Canada), this is sure to be a unique year for the festival. BUT it also means that there are more opportunities than ever to check out these intriguing films and more! Here are five movies that we personally can’t wait to see!
Thomas Vinterberg is arguably one of, if not the most versatile directors working today, directing everything from intense dramas (The Hunt) to war movies (Kursk) and almost everything in-between, and his newest film Another Round, a dark comedy, has all the signs of another hit. Starring Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher who sets out with his friends on a social experiment to remain slightly drunk throughout the day while maintaining their daily lives. If the Vinterberg-Mikkelsen reunion isn’t enough to excite the cinephile in you, it sounds absolutely hilarious, but knowing Vinterberg’s past work, it is sure to have more layers than the average drinking comedy.
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds
Speaking of directors with eclectic filmographies, prolific filmmaker Werner Herzog’s newest film (and his third that will be released in the U.S. this year) Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds sounds like an absolute treat for anyone who is an astronomy buff. Offering an intimate portrait of scientists hunting meteors, Herzog’s distinctive style will make this an undeniably cinematic watch even if you don’t find your interest piqued by the material. And given what we’ve seen of Herzog’s documentary, we can expect some absolutely breathtaking cinematography to come out of it.
Summer of 85
The lower-profile of the two seaside LGBTQ+ romances set to debut at this year’s festival and arguably the one that looks more interesting, acclaimed French filmmaker François Ozon’s newest work, Summer of 85, explores a relationship between two teen boys that soon turns into tragedy. From the images and trailer, it looks like it is going to be one of the most gorgeous films of the festival, at least in terms of the cinematography and the scenery it depicts. And Ozon’s previous work gained a lot of notice for being so personal, so let’s hope that this one follows that trend.
Documentarian Frederick Wismean is ninety years old and yet is still going strong. His last film, Ex Libris, was considered by many to be a significant Oscar snub this year, but maybe his newest work, City Hall, which seems much more political, will finally get him the love he deserves from the Academy. Its four-and-a-half hour length is admittedly a bit intimidating, but Wiseman’s exploration of civil service is sure to be a fascinating watch if his previous work is any indication. This will be an endurance test for even the most committed of festival-goers, but one that promises to be rewarding.
Shadow in the Cloud
One of the most exciting things about festivals are the midnight movie sections, and while TIFF’s Midnight Madness isn’t running at full steam this year, there are three selections, and all of them sound great. The most exciting of them, Shadow in the Cloud, sounds like a uniquely feminist take on WWII action-horror. The program’s description doesn’t reveal a whole lot about the story, meaning that it probably contains plenty of unexpected twists and turns, but one thing we can anticipate is a typically excellent performance from Chloë Grace Moretz, who seems to be playing against type here but will surely be fun to watch nevertheless.
And these are just a few of the films we are excited for in this year’s festival! Unfortunately, with the festival only lasting ten days, it would be impossible for someone to get to everything showing in the lineup, but there truly is something for everyone. So for those in Canada, it’s not too late to look through the schedule and buy your tickets now, because there are some films you’re not going to want to miss!
The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10-19.
By Sean Boelman
One of the world’s premier genre film festivals, this year’s Fantasia Film Festival is happening later than usual and in an unprecedented way with an all-online presentation. With a blend of offerings available on demand and being shown via livestream, this year’s selection is packed with some amazing and exciting offerings for genre cinephiles in Canada.
Unfortunately, due to rights restrictions, these screenings have to be geo-blocked to Canadian audiences only (with the exception of the new Troma film #ShakespearesShistorm, which I personally can’t wait to see), but disappointment media is still covering many of the films in the lineup because many will make their way to international audiences sooner or later. That said, for our Canadian friends, here are five films that you absolutely will not want to miss in this year’s festival.
Screening: August 20 @ 9:45 ET
Japanese filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda made his way to American audiences in a big way with his ambitious genre-bending zombie movie One Cut of the Dead (which also played at Fantasia), and his newest movie Special Actors is somehow even better. Like One Cut, this is best experienced knowing as little about the plot as possible, but know that it’s a quirky comedy that doubles as a satire of the art of acting. With plenty of laughs and some truly unexpected twists, it’s an insanely fun film in more ways than one, but it also packs a surprising amount of emotional heft.
Crazy Samurai Musashi
Screening: On Demand
Speaking of one-takes, the movie that seems most likely to gain a cult following out of Fantasia is Yuji Shimomura’s insanely ambitious action flick Crazy Samurai Musashi. Inspired by a real battle that has become the stuff of legends, the film is one take minus a brief prologue and epilogue. It’s certainly more of a technical feat than a narrative one, and it’s far from perfect, but the things that Shimomura is able to pull off are insanely impressive. Holding it all together is a committed performance from martial artist Tak Sakaguchi, who handles the intense choreography with both grace and intensity.
Screening: On Demand
Noah Hutton’s sci-fi/comedy directorial debut Lapsis was supposed to receive its premiere at this year’s SXSW, but that festival was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. Luckily, the film was still able to secure U.S. distribution thanks to great buzz, and Canadian audiences get a chance to see it as a part of Fantasia. This wickedly funny satire is set in a not-so-distant future where independent contractors embark on dangerous hikes in order to connect cables for an emerging trading market. Examining the flaws and preaching the fears of the ever-growing gig economy, this film is even more relevant now given a recent unemployment crisis.
Screening: August 22 @ 7:00pm
The other film that just screams timely is the Taiwanese rom-com I WeirDo. Telling the story of two people who suffer from OCD as they find love in each other’s compulsions, it’s eerie how much the character’s feelings of isolation resonate with the current situation. That said, even without that connection, the film would still be great, largely thanks to the wonderful chemistry of its stars Austin Lin and Nikki Hsieh. Also impressive is that the film has some gorgeous iPhone-shot cinematography and ridiculously detailed production design. It’s a charmer made with a lot of care, something that is rare for the genre.
Texas Trip - A Carnival of Ghosts
Screening: On Demand
Steve Balestreri and Maxime Lachaud’s documentary Texas Trip - A Carnival of Ghosts is one of the hardest films in the lineup to sell, and it may have a hard time appealing beyond its niche, but that’s all the more reason to catch it while you can at the festival. Connecting drive-in theaters with alternative music artists, it’s almost as if Joe Bob Briggs and the guy from Frank got together to make a movie about creative expression. It’s weird as hell, but also a mesmerizing and beautiful sensory experience. This is one of those smaller and more out there festival films you just have to take a chance on.
With how massive the lineup is this year, there’s no shortage of films to check out, and there truly is something for everybody. If you live in Canada, even if none of these five films tickles your fancy, you should check out the lineup because I can pretty much guarantee that there will be something that will. Stay tuned to disappointment media for our ongoing coverage of the festival.
Virtual tickets are now on sale for the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 3, geoblocked to Canada.
By Sean Boelman
After being delayed from its original April dates and being expanded from its usual ten days to a whopping two weeks of great films, this year’s Florida Film Festival kicks off today at the Enzian Theater in Orlando, FL. Following all recommended state and local guidelines and with added safety precautions in place, film lovers from Orlando will gather (socially distanced, of course) to watch the great selections made by the FFF team.
While all eyes will be on the in-person portion of the festival, as the success of the event may be a good indicator of how a reduced capacity festival may work for the rest of the year (and potentially into 2021), it’s important to note that this year’s festival also features a virtual component which will allow cinephiles to check out a majority of the films in the lineup from the safety and comfort of their own home for the low price of $40!
Leading up to the festival, disappointment media has had the opportunity to check out some of the films playing online and at the Enzian via exclusive press screenings or having had seen some of them via different festivals. Below are five of our favorite films that were included in the selection, and hopefully you get the chance to check them and some of the other great selections out!
Section: Spotlight Films
Screening: Virtual ONLY, 12-6pm on August 13
Although the midday screening time of the film may prevent those with a nine-to-five from checking out this film, Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’s documentary Boys State is one NOT to miss if you can work it into your day. Following a group of boys at a summer camp where they form a mock representative government, this is both frequently hilarious and surprisingly horrifying with its commentary on American democracy. Although one may think that a bunch of teenagers may not be the most knowledgeable about the ins and outs of our government, there’s a surprisingly deep level of insight about some of the issues we are going through right now to be found in this film.
Things Happen Because
Section: Animated Shorts
Screening: August 12 @ 6:30pm; Also Available Virtually
Unlike some other festivals, the Enzian crew and Florida Film Festival take great care to feature up-and-coming filmmakers, and the community often comes out in droves to these shorts programs featuring exciting new voices. There isn’t a better example of that this year than Frank Volk’s Things Happen Because, an expressive (and very funny) Hertzfeldt-inspired short. It’s weird, dark, and not particularly family-friendly (leave the kids at home for this block), but it has a lot of charm in its five minutes. And if you still need to be convinced of how great this film is, it earned a spot in the main Animated Shorts competition rather than the more local “Sunshine & Swampland” block.
Some Kind of Heaven
Section: Florida Films
Screening: August 8 @ 12:00pm
Another great thing about the Florida Film Festival is that it always features films that are of significant local interest, and this year’s “Florida Films” feature is a particularly wonderful one: the Darren Aronofsky-produced documentary Some Kind of Heaven. Following some of the residents of the Florida retirement community The Villages, the film is equal parts funny and sad, and its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. This examination of the facade that is suburban America may not be too flattering to the people who actually live in the area, but those who have visited will be intrigued by the ways in which director Lance Oppenheim calls out the hypocrisy of his subjects.
Fully Realized Humans
Section: Narrative Competition
Screening: August 8 @ 8:45pm
Last year’s Florida Film Festival featured a tribute screening of The Blair Witch Project with a reunion Q&A featuring the film’s cast. This year, one of those cast members, Joshua Leonard, returns to the fest with his new directorial outing Fully Realized Humans, an authentic and riotous look at the anxieties of parenthood. With some of the greatest visual gags in any film so far this year, this will have viewers rolling in their seats with laughters (although it’s not for those who are a bit prudish). And to top it off, the film features the interesting angle of having been shot while Leonard’s co-star Jess Weixler was actually pregnant and about to have her first child!
Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President
Section: Spotlight Films
Screening: August 18 @ 3:30pm; Also Available Virtually (Limited to 100 Tickets)
The other thing for which the Florida Film Festival is well-known is programming some excellent flicks for musicophiles, and while this year’s “Music Films” section is exciting, there’s another great music doc snuck into the Spotlight Films section. Mary Wharton’s documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President is not only interesting because it explores the 39th Commander-in-Chief’s affinity for rock-and-roll, but also because its biographical portion is structured similarly to the traditional rock doc. It’s a consistently entertaining film packed with great tunes, some excellent interviews with musicians, and of course the opportunity to get to hear President Carter’s story in his own words. Both music fans and those interested in politics will definitely want to check this one out.
And that’s only a sampling of some of the great films that this year’s festival has to offer! Stay tuned to disappointment media to check out our ongoing coverage of the festival, which runs from August 7 through August 20 at the Enzian Theater. And if you’re in the Orlando area, you may just run into us at a few screenings, but please don’t run into us at home as we watch the virtually-available selections!
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.