Current Mini Reviews (Cheaper by the Dozen, The Cow, More Than Robots)

Hey everyone! Before I head off on a little vacation tomorrow I wanted to log a couple of reviews for new films I recently saw. I wish I could write a full review for each of them but sometimes there just isn’t time.

So here goes!

Cheaper by the Dozen: Cast and reviews for the 2022 version of the classic film | Marca

Cheaper by the Dozen

One of my favorite books is the memoir Cheaper by the Dozen written in 1948 by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey about their childhood in a family of 12 raised by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth who were motion study experts that had a large family. It’s such a funny, charming book that was made into a wonderful film in 1950 starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Unfortunately this part of the story has been largely forgotten with the remake-in-name-only version starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Now we have this 2022 version and whatever good was in the story has been diluted into a family sitcom and not even a good one at that.

The casting in this Cheaper by the Dozen is good with Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union and the intentions were good with their blended brood of 12. Unfortunately the script was written without regard to nuance or authenticity. Especially when it tries to be topical it completely falls flat and often screamed of tokenism rather than any kind of diversity to be praised. People, especially within their family, don’t talk in speeches ready for a PSA on Disney Channel (this could have been a DCOM but a weak one at that). I also could have done without the entire plotline of Braff and his breakfast spot being franchised. It was badly done.

Instead I would watch the 1950 film, the original Yours Mine and Ours or if in a pinch the 2003 film before watching this…

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

SXSW 2022 Schedule

The Cow

Going into SXSW the thriller The Cow was actually one of my most anticipated films of the festival. I like a tight thriller and Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney are usually strong in their projects. Unfortunately this film proved to be more groan than thrill worthy.

In the film Ryder plays a woman who rents a cabin with her boyfriend only to arrive and find a couple already staying there. After staying the night with the strangers Ryder finds her boyfriend is nowhere to be found with little clues to his whereabouts.

I know the movie The Cow is trying to be but with each reveal it gets more insane and ridiculous by the minute. Let’s just say it involves a cult and the cow of the title isn’t the animal. By the end I was rolling my eyes instead of being intrigued or scared.

There may be some people that will enjoy this insanity but it definitely wasn’t for me. Watch at your own risk.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

More Than Robots Trailer Deutsch German (2022) - video Dailymotion

More Than Robots

It’s interesting there is almost an entire genre of ‘smart kids’ documentaries at festivals. With everything from Science Fair to Spellbound I expect to be introduced to geniuses each year at Sundance and the other festivals. This year’s entry appears to be More Than Robots which you can now watch on Disney Plus but was screened at SXSW. I always seem to enjoy these genius kid documentaries and this one is no exception!

More Than Robots tells the story of the child entrants in the FIRST Robotics Competition starting in early 2020. Obviously the teams and competitions were interrupted by COVID but even that was charming to see how the teens learned from the experience and served each other and the younger students coming after them. It can focus too much on the teams in Los Angeles rather than Japan or Mexico but I still enjoyed seeing the young inventors and the robots they create. This documentary should inspire lots of kids to try their hand at engineering and to build their own amazing machines!

(The FIRST Robotics tournament in 2020 and onward is sponsored by Lucasfilm, so the Disney Plus tie-ins with More Than Robots are present throughout which may annoy some viewers).

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

SXSW LOG 2022: DAY 3 (A LOT OF NOTHING, THE THIEF COLLECTOR, SERIOUSLY RED, MILLIE LIES LOW)

Day 3 of SXSW is in the books and I ended up with 4 movies for the day. I haven’t pushed it super hard this festival. Trying to enjoy myself rather than watching movies all day like a machine. Plus, I have other things I have to watch/work on for my podcast.

Anyway, let’s talk about the 4 movies of day 3:

A Lot of Nothing

Film has always been a way for filmmakers and their audience to deal with and discuss hot topics of the day. However sometimes in their zeal to be relevant they will forget to tell a good story. Such is the case with A Lot of Nothing. The film tries to talk about police violence on Black men and women and instead becomes a story about unhinged people who become less realistic with each decision they make.

The film stars Cleopatra Coleman and Y’lan Noel as a married couple who find out a cop who is unpunished for killing a Black teen lives next door. Coleman’s Vanessa decides to release her own brand of justice and abducts the man and things get crazier from there. I get director Mo McRae is going for satire but there still needs to be some believability in the character and his or her choices. Not the case here. The more bizarre especially Vanessa’s choices got the more disengaged I became as the viewer. Perhaps this will work for some but it’s a skip from me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Thief Collector

I’m not sure why but there is something about the art world that makes for good documentaries. Whether it My Kid Could Paint That or The Price of Everything there’s something voyeuristic about diving into the luxurious world of art. With The Thief Collector we have another great example.

It’s set up like a mystery around the heist of a painting in 1985 by Willem de Kooning from the University of Arizona. The painting was stolen by Jerry and Rita Alter who seem like the ideal All-American couple. It’s only after their death do researchers find the painting but a confessional of many other pieces they stole and perhaps deeds even more sinister.

While this probably would work better as an episode of Dateline (certain parts involving a septic tank go on too long), director Allison Otto keeps things light and fun. I particularly enjoyed the intentionally campy reenactments. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in a few years we get the narrative movie version of The Thief Collector. Until then we can enjoy this engaging documentary.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Seriously Red

I consider myself a big Dolly Parton fan. She’s a talented writer, singer, actress and I just admire her as a human. Although Seriously Red is about a Dolly Parton impersonator I was hopeful it would tap into the legend’s vivacity and charm. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Seriously Red has some good performances and music but it’s brought down by a lead character missing Dolly’s charm.

In the film Krew Boylan plays a woman named Raylene or Red who begins to work as a Dolly Parton impersonator. Along the way things get messy as she has relationships with an Elvis and Kenny Rogers impersonator. Unfortunately Red is also a jerk to most of the people in her life including her long-suffering friend Francis (Thomas Campbell). She uses people when they are convenient and then spits them out when she’s done with them. In general, Red comes across more insufferable than endearing and as she is the main character of the film that’s a problem.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Millie Lies Low

Millie Lies Low is a film that does a lot of things right but doesn’t quite come together. It tells the story of Millie, a girl from New Zealand, who after missing an important flight because of a panic attack spends the day faking having arrived in New York rather than telling her friends and family she’s still in New Zealand.

Millie is played by Ana Scotney and she does a good job creating a sympathetic character that we worry about more with each scene of the film. The problem is we aren’t given enough context as to why Millie participates in this charade? Her friends and family seem supportive and friendly. Has she had panic attacks before? Also does she not want to go to the school in the US? I felt tension as she made increasingly poor decisions but again I needed more context as to why she was making such choices.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Another day at the festival has come and gone! If you saw any of these films let me know what you think! 

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

 

SXSW LOG 2022: DAY 2 (FACING NOLAN, I LOVE MY DAD, 32 SOUNDS)

After an amazing first day of SXSW day 2 was definitely more of a mixed bag. I again only watched 3 movies because of other responsibilities I have but I hope to be able to catch up with more films on Monday and Tuesday. We will see how it goes!

Let’s talk about some movies:

Facing Nolan

I don’t have tons to say about Facing Nolan. It’s a perfectly serviceable biodoc about pitcher Nolan Ryan. It’s the kind of film you’d see on an average episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and fans of Ryan and baseball will undoubtably enjoy it. I like biodocs. It’s fun to learn about people and what made them the people they are but if you are looking for something that transcends the genre this isn’t it (and it doesn’t have to be it).

I did appreciate the variety of subjects interviewed including former President George W Bush. Like I said, baseball fans will especially enjoy Facing Nolan, so it does its job.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I Love My Dad

It’s interesting how we all accept Mrs Doubtfire as a sweet family comedy because we grew up with it and it has such a likable tone and actors. However, when you actually think about it it’s kind of creepy. It’s a similar dynamic with I Love My Dad. It’s a comedy about a man lying to his ex and his son in order to ingratiate himself in his son’s life. It’s just replaced prosthetics and make-up with internet catfishing. Unfortunately, Patton Oswalt’s character takes things so far his character is irredeemable. The more I thought about the film the grosser it became.

Oswalt plays a man who is estranged from his son and decides to start catfishing him as a beautiful young lady in order to boost his confidence (the son is suicidal at the beginning). Like I said, it starts out sweet and innocent enough but then when it gets to sexting and other lewdness it’s weird and I don’t think I could ever forgive a father for doing what Oswalt does.

I Love My Dad ends up feeling like more of a horror movie than a family comedy.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

32 Sounds

I have no doubt Sam Green’s new documentary 32 Sounds will be used in film school classes for decades to come, and such instructional settings is probably where it belongs. It’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen with interactivity that feels novel and fresh…for a few minutes and then I was ready to move on.

32 Sounds strives to teach the viewer about sound in film and how it impacts the movie-going experience. They start the film asking the viewer to watch with headphones or at a theater if possible. Then there are various exercises they ask the viewer to participate in. The viewer are asked to respond to different sounds or think about what memories different sounds bring to the surface.

It’s definitely an interesting experiment in film but probably best as an instructional youtube series than a long feature film.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Are you attending the festival? What did you think of these 3 films? Would love to hear your thoughts. 

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

SXSW Log 2022: Day 1 (Your Friend Memphis, Skate Dreams, Crows Are White)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and having a great weekend! Yesterday marked my first day attending the virtual edition of the SXSW film festival. I thought long and hard about attending the festival but with a New York trip already planned for March I didn’t feel like I could do it. Unfortunately that means I miss out on some of the films being screened but there are still many worthwhile films to watch.

For the first day I watched 3 documentaries and I’d actually recommend all 3. They are each very different from each other but found them all rewarding and worth watching.

Here are my quick thoughts:

Your Friend, Memphis

Like many indie documentaries I do think Your Friend, Memphis would be better as a short. It’s subject Memphis DiAngelis is compelling but the events of his life can drag in spots (as would be the case with most of our lives). Memphis has cerebral palsy but he doesn’t want that to define him. Film is his passion but his struggle to be taken seriously is often met with patronizing speeches if not outright

I appreciate Your Friend, Memphis avoids maudlin or inspirational disability weepie traps but some of the time spent on his crush with a singer named Seneca don’t go anywhere and could have been lessened or removed. Still I overall recommend Your Friend, Memphis and would be a good double-header with The Peanut Butter Falcon from 2019.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Skate Dreams

Anyone who might have been tempted to say ‘skate like a girl’ as a term of derision will want to shut their mouths after seeing the new documentary Skate Dreams. In the film director Jessica Edwards chronicles the history of female skateboarding and it’s engaging interviews and great skating footage make for an entertaining watch.

For some this might be old news but I knew nothing about the start of this sport so I found the stories of early skaters to be very interesting. It was also honest about the challenges and blessings of increasing popularity including the recent addition of the sport to the Olympics.

If you like skateboarding at all Skate Dreams is a winner.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Crows Are White

The final documentary of the day Crows Are White proved to be something special. Ahsen Nadeem’s film starts out as a simple story following the monks of Mt Hiei, Japan but then morphs into a personal story about his own faith journey and the acceptance he years for from his traditional parents.

While I do think the film drags on in sections (although even the slower parts can still be delightful like a whole scene with a monk going gaga over ice cream sundaes), when it works it really works. There is a scene where Nadeem finally is honest with his parents and you want so much for him to be accepted by them, so when he isn’t it’s quite devastating. I loved the dynamic between Nadeem and his wife and the ending is very fulfilling.

There are parts in Crows Are White that feel staged but never so much it took me out of the moment or made the story feel illegitimate.  This is a moving, emotional story that is worth searching out and supporting.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I’d say day 1 was a pretty good start to SXSW. Hopefully in day 2 I will get some narratives to recommend. If you saw any of these films let me know what you think! 

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

[REVIEW] Therapy Dogs or I’m Glad I’m Not a Teenager

As you all know I recently finished covering the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. For the most part it was a disappointing festival with nothing that is likely going to stand out by the end of the year. It’s ironic that one of the most successful “Sundancy” films I saw this week, Therapy Dogs, is going to be released at the Slamdance Film Festival instead of Sundance.

In the film director Ethan Eng takes an underground documentary approach to a narrative chronicling him and his friends senior year of high school. They tell their friends it is a high school yearbook video but it’s actually a feature film.

This is the kind of movie you used to get at Sundance all the time. Friends making a movie together and capturing an authentic look at their worlds. Now it is far too much of the Netflix/Amazon films that don’t feel particularly grounded.

Therapy Dogs at times feels too raw and authentic. It will certainly make you glad you aren’t a teenager today. The drug use and other damaging behavior can be quite shocking. There is also a scene in a strip club that was way too long and felt like part of a different movie.

That said, there are a lot of sequences that feel genuine. One of my favorite parts was all the promposals and any time you see the dance and choral performances at school. As hard as high school can be it is a time where you can explore your talents without the weight of a career or family to worry about.

Eng says at the beginning of the movie “It’s the movie you all deserve…the truth about high school.” and I think that is true. Watching Therapy Dogs reminded me of the brilliant documentary Minding the Gap, where director Bing Liu follows his friends in a documentary for many years. It’s a similar dynamic here where you get to see how these teens live and how most of the preconceived ideas people have aren’t true. For example, they show the partying and then there is a big title card that says ‘Parties Suck’. It’s that contrast between behavior and actual emotion which makes Therapy Dogs a fascinating watch.

Therapy Dogs is a hard R rating but in fairness so is high school. You can watch it on demand as part of The Slamdance Film Festival right now (passes are only $10)

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews (Blue Bayou, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Silent Night)

Hi everyone! I have officially finished with TIFF and it’s been a great experience. This morning I watched my last movie for the festival, Silent Night and that makes 23 movies watched and reviewed. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on these artistic and ambitious films. Even with 9 I did not recommend I still appreciate the experience of attending a festival and watching a large number of films in a short period of time. It gives you a whole different perspective than a typical ordinary trip to the cinemas.

Anyway I have 3 movies to report on today. One I saw at TIFF and the rest were at screenings. Here we go!

Silent Night

I must admit I haven’t seen many apocalyptic or end of the world movies. I’m naturally more of an optimistic person so such dour films don’t appeal to me. Now with director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night we not only get the end of the world but it is combined with Christmas, making for a very weird combination.

In this film a family and friends are gathering to celebrate Christmas knowing the end of the world is coming the next day. A tornado of toxic gasses is going to pass over and they can either take a suicide pill first or wait to die.

The cast for this strange film is fantastic. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode have great chemistry as the hosts of the party. Rufus Jones, Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and more play their friends and Roman Griffin Davis and his twin brothers play their children.

Unfortunately the script doesn’t do much to flesh out the characters outside of the fact they are all going to die, which obviously makes the movie very depressing. Some people may like the depressing version of a Christmas movie but it is definitely not for me and I didn’t take away anything profound that would make all the sadness worth it. My advice is watch Anna and the Apocalypse instead. It’s zombies end of the world and is much more entertaining.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Everybody’s Talking About Jaime

You all know I love musicals and 2021 has proven to be an amazing year for the genre with films like In the Heights, Vivo, Dear Evan Hansen and more. Now we have Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and it’s another win!

This film is based on the stage production of the same name and it tells the story of high school student Jamie New who’s dream is to become a drag queen performer. Jamie is played by newcomer Max Harwood with energy and charisma.

My favorite part of this movie is how positive and life affirming it is. For the most part everyone is kind and encouraging to Jamie. I particularly loved his mother Margaret played by Sarah Lancashire. Her song ‘He’s My Boy’ is the highlight of the film. She sang it like a Broadway pro.

There is of course opposition for Jamie including a bully at school and his Father’s disapproval but it still overall feels positive and uplifting. Richard E Grant could get a supporting Oscar nom for his wonderful performance as a mentor for Jamie.

The songs aren’t especially memorable, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this big-hearted film.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blue Bayou

There are certain movies I’m glad I have seen but never want to watch again. The new film Blue Bayou is one of those films. It’s a devastating film that profiles an important issue I didn’t know was a problem. It tells the story of the LeBlanc family that lives on the Louisiana Bayou. Wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) is pregnant and father Antonio (Justin Chon- who also directs) is trying to make it as a tattoo artist. He was adopted as a child from Korea but things get complicated as the government tries to deport him.

The success of this film will depend a lot on if it emotionally gets you or not? It got me. I was crying especially a very brutal end. I am sure some will think it is too much and it might be but it worked for me. Chon and Vikander have good chemistry and little Sydney Kowalske is great as Kathy’s little girl Jessie. They feel like a believable family to me.

The weaker part of the film comes in a side plot with Linh Dan Pham who is a Vietnamese immigrant who befriends Antonio despite her having cancer. I didn’t see the point of her character. She didn’t add anything to the main conflict and her entire presence could be cut without changing a thing.

Blue Bayou is also a beautiful film that captures the magic of the Louisiana swamps well. It’s devastating but a film you won’t soon forget.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you have it. Let me know if you get to see any of these films what you think. Thanks!

TIFF Day 7: (Where is Anne Frank, Ali & Ava)

Hi everyone! This may be my last log from TIFF. This weekend I am attending the FANX Con in Salt Lake so I probably won’t have time to watch any more TIFF movies (I would like to watch Silent Night, but we will see). Overall TIFF has been a great experience, and I am so grateful to the team there for giving me the opportunity to cover the festival as press. I hope I have done a good job and given all of you, my readers, an idea of the independent films which are coming out soon to a theater or streaming service near you. There have been misses (including the 2 I will review today) but even the misses are interesting to analyze why they don’t work.

So I hope you have enjoyed my TIFF coverage and hopefully next year I will be able to attend in-person for the first time!

Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on today’s movies

Ali & Ava

Going into Ali & Ava I was looking forward to it. I love romances and the summary of “2 people both lonely for different reasons, meet and sparks fly” sounds like my jam. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me. The main problem is Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) had no chemistry and the script didn’t give them enough cute moments which we want in this kind of romantic film. Instead they had a lot of unpleasant stuff to deal with like putting up with Ava’s annoying teen children who don’t approve of her choices.

I also must admit to struggling to understand most of the dialogue. The accents are very strong and the actors mumble their lines making me wish I could have watched with subtitles. Maybe there was charming stuff going on and I just couldn’t understand what they were saying? I doubt it but still it was hard to get into the dialogue when I cant decipher it.

If you don’t have that issue perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did? However, in the end a romance comes down to chemistry and it wasn’t here in Ali & Ava. Oh well!

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Where is Anne Frank?

There are times when I feel bad writing a negative review. I’m not made of stone and it’s hard when you can see so much love put into a piece that doesn’t completely come together. Such is the case with director Ari Folman’s new film Where is Anne Frank. Of course, I love animation so I was especially rooting for this film to be great but it was a mixed bag at best.

I do like the animation. Folman uses some beautiful techniques to make the 2D animation move and flow on screen. I particularly liked the way Anne Frank’s diary comes alive transitioning the viewer from modern times to Anne’s time. I also appreciated the message Folman was trying to share about helping refugees and that Anne would certainly have been an advocate for their cause were she alive today.

The problem with the movie is the concept. I just couldn’t get behind Kitty (Anne’s friend in the diary) coming to life in modern times and to make it worse she falls in love with a refugee activist named Peter. While I admire the message Folman is trying to share the heavy handed nature of it had me rolling my eyes more than sympathizing with the characters. The script throughout the film is clunky and awkward especially in the final act confrontation between Kitty, the refugees and police. It was obviously well-intentioned but badly done.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it! If you got to see anything at TIFF let me know what you liked or didn’t like. Festivals are an amazing experience and I look forward to attending more of them in the future- hopefully in-person. Meanwhile if you are at FANX say hello! I’d love to meet you. Thanks!

TIFF Day 6 Log: (Nobody Has to Know, Charlotte, The Middle Man)

Hey everyone! Another day of TIFF has come and gone and I must admit the 3 movies I have to report on today were all disappointing. It’s always a bit hard being critical of these independent films that clearly have so much love and care put into them. Nevertheless, I have to share my opinions as a film critic, so let’s see what I thought!

Nobody Has to Know

I feel like when you describe the premise for Nobody Has to Know it sounds more interesting than it actually is. The film is written, directed and stars Bouli Lanners and it certainly is an ambitious project. He plays Phil a man who loses his memory after a stroke. A woman named Millie comes to his aid but she also says they had a relationship before the stroke. Phil doesn’t know whether to believe her and we as an audience are skeptical as well. Is this a desperate ploy for companionship or a real connection Phil’s forgotten?

Nobody Has to Come explores these questions with good cinematography and performances. Unfortunately the pacing is very sluggish and the film meanders away from the core premise a lot. Maybe in a theater it would have kept my interest better but at home it did not. The acting is excellent and it is beautifully shot. Unfortunately the script let’s down an interesting premise.

To be frank Nobody Has to Come was simply dull. So I admire what they tried to do but can’t recommend it in the end.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Charlotte

Being an animation buff I was obviously looking forward to both of the animated films at TIFF. I love indie animation and have a whole podcast once a month where my friend and I focus on indie and obscure animation. Unfortunately both of the animated films (not including Flee which I saw at Sundance and loved) ended up disappointing me during this festival- particularly Charlotte.

This film tells the story of Charlotte Salomon who was a German-Jewish artist murdered at Auschwitz concentration camp after completing her series of over 700 paintings. Indeed, the most captivating part of Charlotte is the addendum at the end talking about Salomon’s works in a traditional documentary fashion. It’s a problem if a section at the end is more effective than the entire rest of the movie!

The animation is pretty bad in Charlotte which feels awkward in a movie about an artist. And while the voice cast is impressive the voices didn’t match with the characters. Keira Knightley does a good job as Charlotte but her voice seems too old for a young artist in her 20s. None of them fit!

But the main problem is the story, which manages to feel bland and ordinary when it should be exceptional. Like I said the brief documentary at the end is much better than the story we get in the entire film. You’d honestly be better off reading an article on Salomon and giving Charlotte a pass. It’s a real shame because it had a lot of potential if it was executed better.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Middle Man

I’m not the biggest fan of dark humor. Every so often in something like The Addams Family it can work but for the most part it falls flat and ends up being more disturbing than elevating. The Middle Man, a new absurdist kind-of dark comedy is such a film and I really disliked it. Not for me.

The Middle Man tells the story of Frank who has been hired to be the ‘middle man’ for their community which has a bizarre number of accidents (he’s not with the military or anything like that). It’s a weird dystopian without being a dystopian.

It’s hard for me to explain why I found this movie to be so irritating. Maybe it’s because it is so repetitive? Maybe it is because it is pretentious and dealing with topics like death and grief in such a trite way? Maybe it’s because it dragged on and was so obviously pleased with itself? Either way it was not for me. It reminded me of Kajilionaire which I also hated with its unlikable characters and repetitive frustrating script. However, most people seemed to like that film so maybe they will like this? Like I said- it’s not for me.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it 3 frowns. No fun when that happens. I hope you had better luck if you are covering TIFF or with whatever you are watching. I hope the festival finishes out on a run of good movies after this weak batch. Take care!

TIFF Day 5 Log: Jagged, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Hi friends! I hope you are all doing well. For Day 5 of TIFF I only saw 2 movies at the festival because I spent most of my day at a critics double screening of Blue Bayou and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Reviews of both of those films are to come, but the 2 films I did see at TIFF were very enjoyable and particularly in terms of documentaries the selections have been outstanding this year.

So here are my thoughts on today’s movies:

Jagged

If you were in high school in 1995 like I was there was no escaping the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette, It was everywhere and rightfully so as it is a well written, raw, honest album with tons of great songs. The documentary Jagged explores the making of that album and Morissette’s career.

I must own I had no idea she was a child singer and had her first album at 11. Then at 14-16 she was a pop singer similar to Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. When MCA dropped her she retooled and at 19 put out Jagged Little Pill. There are some upsetting revelations in the documentary about Morissette time as a teen star including allegations of abuse that may be triggering for some viewers.

What I liked most about Jagged is its narrow scope. It went through each notable song on the album and explained what it meant to Morissette and the influence it had on fans and the music scene of that time. It’s definitely a talking heads piece but everyone had something interesting to say and Morissette makes a terrific interviewee in her segment. She’s likeable and funny, which makes you more invested in her story.

Jagged doesn’t break the bio-doc music mold but as a fan of the album and her music I had a great time watching it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Addendum- Alanis has come out saying this isn’t the story she wanted to tell. I find this confusing as it was predominantly her words so I’m not sure what story she wanted told instead? Either way it puts a shade on the documentary and I suppose it should all be taken with a grain of salt. It all seemed quite worshipful in tone to me so this is all very perplexing and surprising

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Cats often have a rough time in the movies. For every millionth positive dog movies there is 1 cat movie. Usually they are the villains in most stories (think Babe or Fievel Goes West). Well, now cat lovers rejoice because you have your movie! The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tells the story of the patron saint of cats, artist Louis Wain.

If you didn’t know Louis Wain was a painter who came from a high brow family and became famous with his whimsical paintings of cats. Before his influence cats weren’t domesticated like they are now. You could say his paintings were the catalyst for people keeping cats as pets, which is kind of amazing (I had no idea).

Benedict Cumberbatch is strong, as he always is, playing Louis throughout the highs and lows of his life. The film tackles a lot including art, commerce, mental health, marriage and more and for the most part it does it all well. I also really liked Claire Foy as Louis’ wife and Andrea Riseborough as his feisty sister Caroline. The production values are also impressive showing they did a lot on a small budget.

My only complaint is I don’t think the movie needed to cover all of Wain’s life. It drags at times and certain time periods could have been skipped.

Other than that I think The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a charming film about an eclectic and unusual man who happened to love cats!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy