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    TIFF 2014: ‘Tusk”s production more interesting than the final product

    Kevin Smith’s early work, guerilla-style films about disenfranchised geeks and losers, helped gain him a strong and dedicated audience. While many of his most dedicated fans seem to find the best in even his weakest films, Smith has never found the same success in critical circles. The negative critiques of his films has only been exasperated by Smith himself, who seems to struggle with dissenting takes on his work, leading him to withdraw into podcasting. Though this was not a strategic choice on Smith’s part, it seemed to pay off as his audience only grew and he is now among the most influential people in the ‘Twittersphere’. This allowed Smith to distribute his 2011 film Red State himself. He described the entire process as “Indie Film 2.0.”; it was no longer about just making the film yourself but distributing it as well. More

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    TIFF 2014: Jon Stewart’s ‘Rosewater’ is a cogent, entertaining commentary on an isolated hell and the power of information

    Rosewater, the directorial debut of The Daily Show host and stand-up comedian Jon Stewart, is a modest retelling of one man’s prolonged imprisonment for honestly reporting about Iran. It’s an engaging exercise about political transparency made possible by the modern media that’s obviously close to Stewart’s heart. This is serious content interlaced with sporadic interludes of comedy that in Stewart’s hands sails smoothly along without seeming inappropriate or misplaced. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Bird People’ is an unconvincing take on personal liberty

    There’s no easy way to write about Bird People without spoiling the ostensible magic and surprise it so valiantly strives for. Cut almost dead in the middle between depicting the mundane and the thrilling occurrences between two people at a modern and disconnected hotel in Paris, Pascale Ferran’s (Lady Chatterley) film aims to be ambitious and magical, but never quite comes together as it should, often feeling incomplete and insubstantial in the process. Opening with a playful prologue that includes different people on a commuter train, we quickly eavesdrop as they play on their phones, listen to music, and engage in conversation. It’s a curious way to start things off as it suggests the random importance of these brief human snippets that we drop in on but never revisit. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Two Days, One Night’ another humanizing powerhouse from the Dardennes

    Sandra (Marion Cotillard) spends the majority of Two Days, One Night knocking on the doors of her co-workers and modestly pleading with them to decline a significant pay bonus so that she can save her job and her family. Some are instantly receptive to her request while others blow her off and even resort to violence. It’s an episodic structure that is executed with measured precision and tension from master Belgian auteurs and critical darlings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike, L’Enfant). Acting as the antithesis of the hardworking, stubborn, and desperate titular character from the directing duo’s immaculate Rosetta (1999), Sandra’s glowing and unwavering empathy towards those who stand in opposition to her is the crux of her character and the streamlined grace that runs through this humbled marvel of a film. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Manglehorn’ is David Gordon Green’s most daring film to date

    David Gordon Green has never allowed himself to be easily pinned down as a filmmaker. After making his name with dreamy independent films about relationships and growing up, he moved onto big budget comedies of varying quality. While even his most dire efforts bring a certain amount of style (even the awful Your Highness had a compelling visual softness not usually associated with medieval stoner comedies), many have mourned the direction of his career. His newest effort, Manglehorn, feels like a bastard child of these two worlds. In many ways it’s his most visually adventurous film since his career began, but it’s hardly a return to his early work in terms of feel, theme or style. More

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    TIFF 2014: Adam Driver dominates Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young’ and Saverio Costanzo’s ‘Hungry Hearts’

    Once again, Noah Baumbach’s taken to contemporary twenty-something culture. With Frances Ha he painted an apt portrait of a meandering young woman struggling to identify herself in a sea of expectation and pressure. Now, the gloves are off, as Baumbach zeroes in on the terrible and vaguely infectious character traits of the Me Generation. Narcissism and pretention are the order of the day, and we’re not talking about flippantly calling your ‘frenemy’ a narcissist: actual, clinical narcissism. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘3 Coeurs’ is not a credible romance

    French filmmaker Benoît Jacquot often crops up in discussions of overlooked auteurs of contemporary French cinema. His work is quiet, understated, and rarely finds a wide audience. Yet, efforts like Farewell My Queen, A Single Girl and The School of Flesh are heralded as among the best French efforts of their respective years. However, for every effort that wins the heart of niche audiences, the rest of his films are divisive and alienating. While a lack of consistency is perhaps working against him, many of his contemporaries are even bigger gambles: François Ozon is responsible for some beautiful films but more of his efforts are outright misses, and even heavyweights like Olivier Assayas deliver as many misses as successes. Perhaps it is the quietness of Jacquot’s style that works against him, his best efforts coming across as understated and his worst as dull. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Top Five’ is one of the best comedies in years

    Chris Rock has always been one of the most invigorating presences in the comedy scene. His comedy is confrontational, biting and hilarious. Up until this point, his foray into filmmaking has rarely matched his unique and vibrant talents, and while there are certainly exceptions, on-screen Chris Rock has usually been reduced to a much tamer and often much less funny version of himself. With Top Five, however, the gears seems to shift. Chris Rock not only shows off why he is one of the funniest people alive, but applies his humour to a surprisingly daring narrative about the value of laughter and the struggle of being an artist. The film also works as a wonderful meta-textual narrative on the state of the current Hollywood system, as well as a touching romance. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Luna’ is a dark and surreal exploration of grief

    While Mirrormask has become something of a cult movie, Dave McKean is still better known for his work in illustration than his directorial efforts in film. McKean’s groundbreaking style consistently raised the bar in comic art; his contribution to the 1989 release of Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison, helped change our understanding of the artform. McKean’s style seemed uniquely suited to the mind space of an asylum, his layered mixed media style reflective of thoughts and emotions in conflict. Perhaps his best known work is his contributions to the cover art for Neil Gaiman’s iconic Sandman series, once again cementing the phantasmagoric quality of McKean’s work. His collaboration with Gaiman highlighted the obscured landscape of nightmares which he frightfully recreated through superimposition, collage and drawing. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Spring’ is a flawed but vibrant romantic-horror film

    Spring can most easily be described as a romantic-horror: a monster movie with a heart set mostly in a small tourist destination in Italy. After the death of his mother, Evan(Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his job and gets himself in a fight that causes him to be pursued by police. With nothing left in California, he hops on the first available flight, which brings him to Italy. This adventure leads him to meeting the beautiful and mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Heaven Knows What’ is an authentic and devastating portrait of addiction

    While some spectators may roll their eyes at the thought of another indie film about drug addiction, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Heaven Knows What is a horrifying and remarkable piece of cinema that feels both alarmingly alive and alien given its subject matter. Bold, raw, and severely emotive, the Safdie’s latest is another one of their standard New York tales. Far more emotionally affecting and aesthetically brazen than their first two narrative features, The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008) and Daddy Longlegs (2009), Heaven Knows What is one of the few films of its kind that thrives on a new kind of detail and specificity regarding its characters and their milieu. More

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