Don’t worry, these are tears of joy. Why? In this packed episode of Cinnamonholics, we dish on TIFF 2021, catch up on The Card Counter and Blue Bayou, then review some movies. First, there’s Clint Eastwood’s new western, Cry Macho, starring himself, which just hit theaters and HBO Max. Then we get into The Eyes of Tammy Faye, starring Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, and Jon’s personal, childhood memories (just wait). Then we have a special surprise celebrity guest (Nicolas Cage?!) on the show to help us review his new movie Prisoners of the Ghostland.
Monday, the latest film from director Argyris Papadimitropoulos (Suntan), is a splashy and sensationalized effort, one that’ll possibly turn some folks off its intentional, unabashed abrasiveness. The response to the film’s debut appears to be divided, and understandably so. Seemingly by design, Papadimitropoulos’ latest film is a claustrophobic and unsettled viewing experience, and it matches the restless, unbridled feelings of our lovestruck, then lovelorn characters. If you don’t care for these characters, essentially, then you’re gonna have a hard time falling for this movie. Especially since the filmmakers seemingly don’t care if you like them or not. They’re not the most endearing duo, but they’re certainly amusing to watch in their debauchery. Well, at least, until they aren’t. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself already.
It’ll take some time before we really come to terms with the depths of COVID-19’s devastation. It’s hard to grapple with the severity of a disaster when you’re still caught in the eye of the storm. We haven’t seen the last of this deadly and debilitating disease, and it’s hard to know when we ever will. A year ago, you hardly heard a single soul utter the word “coronavirus.” Now, it’s hard to have a conversation where it’s not mentioned in the first few seconds. We’re in a new normal for the time being, and we shouldn’t take it lightly. Because at least for the United States, the worst is yet to come, unfortunately.
Fables are the fabric through which we weave our hopes, our morals from past failures, and our burning idealism into the consciousness of future generations. In the grand tradition of passing down stories and sharing grand memories to young and impressionable minds, Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine productions’ Wolfwalkers, the new animated movie from directors Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea) and Ross Stewart, is a lovely and winningly sincere 2D tale of friendship, acceptance, and the rapid dangers of societal mistrust.
I’m not exactly sure how to sell you on Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall. This sweeping, sprawling, four-and-a-half-hour documentary is a massive, city-wide examination of the inner workings of Boston’s government and public services. It’s an elaborate, expansive look at what makes a city the way it is, how its citizens and political leaders work hard to keep everything running, and the seemingly endless hurdles that poor and marginalized individuals often need to go through in order to make their voices heard. It’s a bulky, burgeoning enterprise of a documentary that’s as interested in watching town hall officials speak to the masses as it is watching the local garbagemen take out the trash on their regular circuits.
There comes a point in many people’s lives when they realize they’re not going to live up to their past potential. Whatever bright promise they once showed grows dim in the recesses of time, and the gradual steps toward the mediocrity and bitter acceptance of a middling adulthood come heavily. This is not autobiographical; I had little-to-no potential growing up, and I’m certainly not living up to it now! But it’s the tortured and tormented existence of Abe Applebaum, the former child protigee-turned-sad-sack protagonist of writer-director Evan Morgan’s dark noir dramedy The Kid Detective, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month before making its unexpected theatrical release (at least, for me) this weekend.
Apples, the feature directorial debut of Christos Nikou, isn’t a horror film, though it does grapple with something that’s terrifying to think about. In the midst of a nationwide pandemic, where people instantly and inexplicably suffer from acute cases of severe amnesia, Number 14842, a.k.a. Aris (Aris Servetalis), is the latest patient who winds up in the Disturbed Memory Department, a mental rehabilitation center for people who cannot remember their identities, their past, their loved ones, or where they live.
I want to believe that most movies are made with good intentions. I have a hard time believing that a group of people would spend a year (or more) of their time working on something for shallow or potentially even cynical reasons. Yes, we live in a very cynical world, as Jerry Maguire once said. I understand that people are not always driven by pure desires and good deeds. But when it comes to art, especially art that is meant to be as emotionally engrossing as Good Joe Bell, the newest film from director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), I would believe — or, at least, hope — that the motivations behind this project were noble and good, as its dutiful title would suggest. Nevertheless, movies don’t give out prizes for good intentions.
In theory, there’s something quite lovely about David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, The Water Man. It’s a celebration of the power of storytelling and the ways in which we can use our imaginations to understand the intricacies of our realities. The execution is completely earnest and sometimes charming, particularly with a strong lead performance from newcomer Lonnie Chavis. The storybook quality, while not especially novel, certainly makes it an accessible film for young audiences, even when it deals with heavy subject matter. Despite its warm presentation, likable sincerity, and all its good intentions, there’s also a cold irony to how familiar and rudimentary it can be in its narrative structure.
Viggo Mortensen makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with Falling, a heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) family drama in which Mortensen also stars as John, a mild-mannered pilot who takes a week off from work in order to spend time with his critical, outspoken, set-in-his-ways father (Lance Henriksen), a brittle senior who is never afraid to yell, demean, and belittle anyone and everyone around him. John and his family, including his husband (Terry Chen), his adopted daughter (Gabby Velis), and his sister (Laura Linney), all try their best to put up with the old man’s endless torments. After all, it’s not looking good for his future. He’s a relic of the past who haunts his family — even as he’s still among the living (if only for so long). His disgruntled children do everything they can to keep their decades-spanning feelings of anguish, remorse, and frustration toward their father to themselves, but Mortensen’s moody movie is unafraid to turn up the dial until it’s almost unbearable for anyone (them or us) to want to spend even a minute longer in this man’s narrow-minded company.
Enemies of the State, from director Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird), doesn’t need to do too much to make audiences feel an unnerving sense of dread over the dangers of government surveillance in our current technological era. We, the people, are growing ever more aware of the uncovered truths in an age of Wikileaks and other online methods of taking off masks and discovering previously undisclosed secrets. But ironically enough, in an age where information can often be at the click of the button, what is actually true and what is being constructed by our government can become foggy in an age of post-truth and “fake news.” Are we sometimes too quick to assume what is true and what is fabricated? Are government figures merely looking out for their own interests, or do they have more specific agendas? At a time where we know more about the activities of the U.S. government than ever, we might have even more questions than ever regarding their activities and what they seek to find in American homes.
When I started Holler, the first feature film written and directed by Nicole Riegel and based on her short film of the same name, I had this ringing feeling. Its sense of place, warm authenticity, and bittersweet emotional core were all burning bright just as this homey small-town indie began. Aided by a bristling, genuine lead performance from Jessica Barden (The Lobster, The End of the F****** World), I was already feeling energized and enthusiastic about the wondrous possibility that I might be watching one of the finest debuts of this year’s highly unorthodox Toronto International Film Festival.