Adam Nayman

Revising Revisionism—Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel

By Adam Nayman / September 20, 2021

“This is the unwieldy version of the movie,” said Quentin Tarantino on the Pure Cinema podcast in June about his new 400-page novelization of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019). “Unwieldy” is indeed the right adjective for QT’s new make-work project, and it’s also probably the last word on his creative sensibility.

Read More

TIFF 2021 | Sundown (Michel Franco, Mexico)

By Adam Nayman / September 14, 2021

By Adam Nayman The indefatigable Michel Franco is back on his grind with Sundown, a companion piece to last year’s accomplished or objectionable (depending on who you ask) New Order. Both films—one a thriller, the other a character study, both set in the director’s native Mexico—could  broadly be said to be about “wealth inequality.” Careful…

Read More

TIFF 2021 | The Wheel (Steve Pink, USA)

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2021

By Adam Nayman From the director of both Hot Tub Time Machine movies (there was a sequel, remember) comes a probing, emotional relationship drama. “What if it doesn’t work?” asks Albee (Amber Midthunder) about the step-by-step, relationship-saving experiment proposed by her husband Walker (Taylor Gray), and the only thing really pressurizing the 83 more or…

Read More

TIFF 2021 | The Middle Man (Bent Hamer, Norway/Germany/ Denmark/Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 12, 2021

By Adam Nayman Tapped for a spectacularly thankless civil service gig in a dilapidated Ontario backwater, Frank (Sverre Hagen) interviews for the job in front of a panel that includes Don McKellar and Paul Gross. The Canadiana couldn’t be thicker, but as writer-director Bent Hamer actually hails from historic Sandefjord, Norway—a one-time Viking stronghold and…

Read More

New Order (Michel Franco, Mexico/France)

By Adam Nayman / June 15, 2021

“Mexico’s upper classes are asking for trouble,” Michel Franco told Variety last fall. With New Order,trouble has found them. The deep-crimson dress selected by prosperous newlywed Marianne (Naian González Norvind) for the lavish post-wedding party at her family’s spotless steel-and-glass estate is couture at its most ominous; don’t look now, but there will be blood.

Read More

Minority Report: Armond White Wants to Make Spielberg Great Again

By Adam Nayman / December 22, 2020

By Adam Nayman The “About the Author” section of Armond White’s new critical anthology does not disappoint. In the space of four short paragraphs, White is identified as “esteemed, controversial and brilliantly independent” as well as “The Last Honest Film Critic in America”; his résumé comprises “auspicious tomes” that are “essential for anyone who loves…

Read More

I Lost It at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Antkind and I’m Thinking of Ending Things

By Adam Nayman / September 22, 2020

“It’s all planned, but it isn’t thought out,” wrote Pauline Kael in her review of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), a nifty bit of critical jiu-jitsu turning John Cassavetes’ much-theorized—and, during Kael’s reign at The New Yorker, much-derided—technique of spontaneous improvisation within a dramatic framework against him.

Read More

TIFF 2020: Point and Line to Plane (Sofia Bohdanowicz, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman The sterile, corkscrew expanse of the Guggenheim is a concrete geometric presence in Point and Line to Plane, which takes its title from a 1947 book of art theory by Wassily Kandinsky and is punctuated by images of his abstract canvases, as well as those of his lesser-known predecessor Hilma af Klint.…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Rules for Werewolves (Jeremy Schaulin-Roux, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman Having not read Kirk Lynn’s 2015 novel about a feral cult of squatters, I can’t say if Rules for Werewolves qualifies as a proper adaptation or a literary riff in miniature: the snaky long take narrating the desecration of a sprawling but sterile suburban mansion unfolds in sync to the author’s ramblingly…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US/Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman The title character of Canadian director Emma Seligman’s feature debut is technically the 18-month-old blonde moppet sired by affluent nebbish Max (Danny Deferrari) and his shiksa-goddess wife Kim (Dianna Agron), a miniature avatar of assimilation yelping up a storm amidst a company of black-clad mourners. Symbolically, though, the title refers to tousled,…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Still Processing (Sophy Romvari, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman “A moment stopped would burn like a frame of film, blocked before the furnace of the projector,” intones Alexandra Stewart in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983), testifying to the essential fluidity of time versus the fixity of photography. Marker’s point seems to be that to disproportionately privilege still images, in cinema as…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Violation (Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman If you believe that the worst thing a movie can do is pass unnoticed, then Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli’s Violation might be for you. Deliberately taking its formal and tonal cues from certain filmmakers occupying the endurance-test wing of the art/grindhouse—specifically the cabin-in-the-woods incarnations of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier—Violation…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Inconvenient Indian (Michelle Latimer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman Toronto’s Fox Theatre plays itself in Inconvenient Indian, which opens by sending Thomas King—author of the 2012 critical study that give the film its title and rhetorical spine—to the cinema. Sitting in the dark before clips from Nanook of the North, a man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Every Day’s Like This (Lev Lewis, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman The one direct allusion to assisted suicide in Every Day’s Like This is filtered through movie madness: discussing a potential date for the euthanasia of their terminally ill matriarch, a father and his two young-adult children agree that it would be best not to do it before the Oscars. Lev Lewis’ mournful…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Beans (Tracey Deer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman “Fuck you,” whispers 12-year old Beans (Kiawentiio) to her reflection in the mirror, a playful gesture of self-deprecation that’s also a rehearsal for external clashes. It’s July 1990 in Oka, and if a preteen Mohawk girl is going to get through a summer of standoffs in one piece—or fit in with the…

Read More

TIFF 2020: As Spring Comes (Marie-Ève Juste, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman Metaphor blooms in As Spring Comes, which reconfigures a frosbitten ice-fishing shack into a literal hothouse. Sheltered inside with her lover in what seems to be a mutually understood ritual, a young woman photogenically mutates—evolves? reverts?—from fauna to flora. Typically, a little magic realism goes a long way, and thankfully, French-Canadian director…

Read More

TIFF 2020: The Archivists (Igor Drljaca, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman A significant change of pace for Bosnian-Canadian filmmaker Igor Drljaca after a run of Balkan-themed hybrid fictions and docs, the sci-fi-inflected The Archivists concerns a trio of future-shocked musicologists trying to reconstruct an I-Love-the-’80s hit, using improvised instruments in an abandoned country home. The theme is the durability and necessity of art…

Read More

TIFF 2020: Akilla’s Escape (Charles Officer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman A weary, wary weed dealer with decades on his odometer, Akilla (Saul Williams) operates self-effacingly under cover of the Toronto night; staring down the barrel of a gun aimed by Jamaican gangbanger Sheppard (Thamela Mpumlwana), he decides to try to save a wayward boy who could be his mirror. The structural gimmick…

Read More

The Math of Love Triangles: Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Trigonometry

By Adam Nayman / July 4, 2020

The most arresting image in the new BBC Studios series Trigonometry (airing in the US this summer on HBO Max and in Canada on CBC Gem) comes in the fifth episode, when restaurateur Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira), in the middle of a difficult Nordic honeymoon getaway with her new husband Kieran (Gary Carr), goes on an evening field trip to see the Northern Lights. As Kieran sulks back at the hotel, she gazes up at a display that imbues the uncanny sensation—for the character, as well as the audience—of a planetarium-show special effect despite its you-are-there authenticity.

Read More

Long Live the New Flesh: The Decade in Canadian Cinema

By Adam Nayman / March 20, 2020

Let’s get it right out of the way: by any non-subjective metric—which is to say in spite of my own personal opinion—the Canadian filmmaker of the decade is Xavier Dolan, who placed six features (including two major Competition prizewinners) at Cannes between 2009 (let’s give him a one-year head start) and 2019, all before turning 30. Prodigies are as prodigies do, and debating Dolan’s gifts as a transnational melodramatist and zeitgeist-tapperis a mug’s game, one that I’ve already played in these pages.

Read More

Anything Is Possible: Josh and Benny Safdie on Uncut Gems

By Adam Nayman / December 29, 2019

At this point, the Safdies are young masters of their own aesthetic, which was in formation at the time of Daddy Longlegs but felt more fully realized in Heaven Knows What:a roving, probing, pulsating audiovisual weave that doesn’t so much privilege pace over clarity as locate one in the other. Their movies can be exhausting, enervating, and even annoying (and Sandler, to his credit, achieves genuine annoyance in many passages here), but they’re never confusing, and the lucidity of their storytelling—which never wavers even when their characters have no earthly idea what they’re doing—has become one of contemporary American cinema’s true and distinctive marvels.

Read More

Golden Eighties: J. Hoberman’s Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan

By Adam Nayman / September 23, 2019

The news cycle waits for no one, not even J. Hoberman. Opening up the former Village Voice critic’s new book Make My Day—the conclusion, following The Dream Life and An Army of Phantoms, of his “Found Illusions” trilogy, which traces the intersection of Hollywood fantasies and American political reality in the transformative decades after World War II—on the same day that The Atlantic published an article detailing Ronald Reagan’s appalling comments to Richard Nixon about the members of a Tanzanian delegation to the United Nations in 1971, I couldn’t help but lament the anecdote’s lack of inclusion in Hoberman’s otherwise comprehensively withering mock-hagiography of the 40th Commander in Chief.

Read More

Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2019

By Adam Nayman With five minutes to go in Jojo Rabbit, I laughed out loud. One of the actors (not one of the famous ones) got off a good line reading, and my response, fully audible and totally involuntary, filled me with shame. (I actually apologized to my seatmate, who will remain nameless but successfully…

Read More

Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley, US) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2019

By Adam Nayman The stories of H.P. Lovecraft teem and crawl with terrifyingly malleable creations, yet paradoxically resist cinematic adaptation; more than most weird tales, they exist to be beheld in the mind’s eye. Richard Stanley’s go at Lovecraft’s 1927 chestnut “The Color Out of Space” eschews the original’s turn-of-the-century setting and repertorial framing device…

Read More

Clifton Hill (Albert Shin, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2019

By Adam Nayman Good thrillers live or die by their specifics, and Clifton Hill is nothing if not precise about its tourist-trap environment (the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) and its inhabitants, including trashy gambling addicts, possibly psychopathic land developers, French-Canadian husband-and-wife tiger-trainers, and—if you hadn’t already heard—David Cronenberg emerging like Ursula Andress (except fully…

Read More

Tammy’s Always Dying (Amy Jo Johnson, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2019

By Adam Nayman Tammy’s also always yelling—and cursing, and drinking, and threatening suicide, and making a messy spectacle of herself in public and private. That’s just who Tammy is, and it’s also just the sort of movie that Tammy’s Always Dying is trying to be: a smile-through-tears comedy-drama about the need to hold our loved…

Read More

Guest of Honour (Atom Egoyan, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2019

By Adam Nayman The subtext of Atom Egoyan’s latest mid-late-career work is that you shouldn’t be mean to people online—a plaint that looks retrospectively prophetic in light of the film’s Venice reception, which included an attempted murder in the pages of Variety. Suffice it to say that Guest of Honour is not nearly so bad…

Read More

Waves (Trey Edward Shults, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2019

By Adam Nayman With Waves, Trey Edward Shults goes for broke; another way to put it is that he’s writing cheques that his filmmaking can’t cash. Even leaving aside the question (which I’m assuming will be asked at some point by somebody not otherwise participating in a standing ovation) about a white filmmaker aggressively melodramatizing…

Read More

Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, Ireland/Sweden/Belgium/UK) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2019

By Adam Nayman You learn something new every day: for instance, I didn’t know that redheads were considered bad luck on the open seas, hence the chilly reception for bookish ginger Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) aboard the trawler that’s hosting her solo marine-biological expedition. (“You need to get your hands dirty,” says a supervisor, foreshadowing plenty…

Read More

Castle in the Ground (Joey Klein, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2019

By Adam Nayman The swift, ruinous descent from normalcy into substance abuse is hardly a subject lacking for cinematic treatment, and Joey Klein’s Castle in the Ground offers one more. In terms of casting, this Sudbury-set feature is above reproach, juxtaposing sad-eyed Henry (Alex Wolff, already an old hand at being put through the physical…

Read More

Blow the Man Down (Danielle Krudy & Bridget Savage Cole, US) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2019
Read More

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2019

By Adam Nayman That Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe mutually lose their shit over the duration of The Lighthouse is not a spoiler: sequestered together off the coast of Nova Scotia in a lighthouse (also not a spoiler) with little more than a pot to piss in (and there is a lot of pissing in…

Read More

The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, US) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2019

By Adam Nayman The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the conspiracy-minded 1950s resonate in a zeitgeist in which everything feels accessible and occluded at the same time. Between the suspicious suicide of Jeffrey Epstein and its ostensible connections to the making of Eyes Wide Shut (and the death of Stanley…

Read More

The Hottest August (Brett Story, Canada/US)

By Adam Nayman / June 27, 2019

It is, it seems, the End of the World as We Know It. Forty-two years after R.E.M. wrote the West’s definitive apocalypse-now anthem, the song’s essentially optimistic subtext has become even more sharply double-edged; its parenthetical proviso can be interpreted as much as a sign of denial as resignation, a means of keeping any anticipatory psychic torment at bay.

Read More

Audrey II: Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell’s MS Slavic 7

By Adam Nayman / March 26, 2019

Canadians don’t do sequels. Or at least we don’t do them that often: Don Shebib went Down the Road Again again in 2011, and Bruce McDonald got the band back together for Hard Core Logo 2 (2010); commercially oriented hits like Fubar (2002) and Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) have been profitable enough to justify follow-ups.

Read More

Soft and Hard: Claire Denis on High Life

By Adam Nayman / January 2, 2019

By Adam Nayman  There is a shot of an infant being carried by its father in Claire Denis’ L’intrus (2004) that may be the most rapt and tender image of its kind I’ve ever seen in a film. The first ten minutes of the director’s new High Life offer an extension and an elaboration of…

Read More

Tous les garçons et les filles: Philippe Lesage’s Genèse and Les démons

By Adam Nayman / September 28, 2018

By Adam Nayman On the basis of Les démons (2015) and his latest film Genèse—I haven’t caught up yet with Copenhague, a Love Story (2016) or his documentaries—Saint-Apagit-born writer-director Philippe Lesage is already one of the strongest stylists in Canadian cinema, cultivating, in collaboration with the gifted cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni, a distanced, gliding camera style…

Read More

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (Xavier Dolan, Canada/UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2018

By Adam Nayman It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life: that’s the thesis (and arguably the most expensive-to-license hook, assuming friend-of-the-director Adele offered hers for free) in Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. A famously troubled production that fired one of its two biggest stars via Instagram and betrays scars of that…

Read More

High Life (Claire Denis, Germany/ France/US/UK/Poland) — Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2018

By Adam Nayman There is a shot of an infant being carried by its father in Claire Denis’ L’intrus that may be the most rapt and tender image of its kind I’ve ever seen in a film. The first ten minutes of High Life are an extension and an elaboration of that shot, observing Monte…

Read More

Freaks (Zach Lipovsky & Adam Stein, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2018

By Adam Nayman Too grim for a straight-up YA audience and too goofy to be taken too seriously, Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein’s Freaks at leads owns its curious at-oddsness: it’s a weird, scrappy, palpably Canadian mutant that’s actually more likeable for not quite passing as mainstream fare. That earnest-misfit ethos begins with its seven-year-old…

Read More

The Front Runner (Jason Reitman, US) —Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2018

By Adam Nayman The second movie in as many award-season cycles to feature scenes depicting the inner workings of The Washington Post, The Front Runner stakes out its distance from Steven Spielberg by painting even charter members of the fourth estate as carrion-scarfing jackals; (insanely) cast as Ben Bradlee, Alfred Molina cynically justifies his newspaper’s…

Read More

Duelles (Olivier Masset-Depasse, Belgium/France) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2018

By Adam Nayman Or, Bad Mamans. There’s a genuinely intriguing idea at the centre of Duelles, in which a pair of suburban mothers as well-manicured as their respective lawns engage in an escalating game of psychological warfare (and worse) in the wake of a tragedy that, in the eyes of the suffering party, could not…

Read More

Destroyer (Karyn Kusama, US) — Platform

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2018

By Adam Nayman Playing a weathered LAPD lifer in Destroyer, Nicole Kidman looks like she’s been Dragged Across Concrete; her Erin Bell is the kind of hard-driving, harder-drinking detective who sleeps in her clothes in her car and flips off superiors at the scene of the crime. In other words, she’s a cliché, and if…

Read More

Firecrackers (Jasmin Mozzafari, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2018

By Adam Nayman It’s a town full of losers and they’re pulling out of there to win: that’s the premise of Jasmin Mozzafari’s Firecrackers, which expands the director’s 2013 short of the same name into a conspicuously stylish, intermittently impressive debut that feels very much of the moment in young Canadian cinema, like a faster,…

Read More

Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson, US) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2018

By Adam Nayman The red, white and blue split-screen that showcases the horny, house-partying girls of Assassination Nation is the first—and maybe best—bit of neo-Godardian gamesmanship in Sam (son of Barry) Levinson’s state-of-the-union horror comedy. Suffice it to say that there are more plausible candidates to make satire great again than the guy who directed…

Read More

Rojo (Benjamin Naishtat, Argentina/Brazil/France/ Netherlands/Germany) — Platform

By Adam Nayman / August 31, 2018

By Adam Nayman The De Palmia-ish split diopter shot in the opening sequence of Rojo is an allusion that also suggests its own distinctive usage. Positioning the camera just behind the balding pate of small-town lawyer Claudio (Dario Grandinetti), as he gazes angrily at a long-haired restaurant patron who’s taken his reservation, uncomfortably aligns us…

Read More

Exchange Rate: The Silent Partner at 40

By Adam Nayman / July 2, 2018

By Adam Nayman “I think Toronto is a wonderful town, smart and up to date, just like a good American city…makes me feel like I’m back home in Cleveland.” These words, spoken by a “Mr. Chester Vanderwick” (an apparently authentic Midwesterner, although I’ve always thought he looks and sounds like a bad actor) sum up…

Read More

The Uses of Disenchantment: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

By Adam Nayman / December 19, 2017

By Adam Nayman Accepting the Golden Lion at Venice for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro magnanimously offered this piece of advice to young filmmakers: “Have faith in whatever you have faith in.” This bit of winner’s-circle tautology was surely not meant to be condescending. As with his fellow awards-ceremony-orator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s observation at…

Read More

The New Workout Plan: Denis Côté’s Ta peau si lisse

By Adam Nayman / September 28, 2017

By Adam Nayman William K.L. Dickson’s Sandow (1894) is a three-part documentary study of the Prussian muscleman Friedrich Wilhelm Muller, who adopted the more flamboyant nom de plume after he dodged the draft and joined the circus. Sandow’s placement on undergraduate film studies curriculums the world over owes to its unique historical value: it was…

Read More

The Carter Effect (Sean Menard, Canada/USA) — TIFF Docs

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2017

By Adam Nayman Filming Drake (billed as a “rapper/actor,” in a nod to his Degrassi stint) in front of some dinosaur skeletons at the Royal Ontario Museum is the wittiest touch in Sean Menard’s barely feature-length, sure-to-be-bought-for-television account of Vince Carter’s tumultuous tenure with the Toronto Raptors, not that said tumultuousness is really given its…

Read More

The Children Act (Richard Eyre, UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2017

By Adam Nayman Ian McEwan specializes in preposterous plots, and The Children Act is as contrived as anything in his posh, voluminous, award-winning repertoire. (I don’t have an official number, but I’m guessing this is something like the 85th film made from one of his novels). Shortly after receiving a your-job-or-our-marriage ultimatum from her perennially…

Read More

The Lodgers (Brian O’Malley, Ireland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2017

By Adam Nayman Things creak in The Lodgers, a painfully genteel Irish horror movie haunted by the spirits of superior ghost stories, from The Innocents to The Others. It’s not that director Brian O’Malley is unaware of (or not duly reverent to) the old-dark-house tradition that he’s working in, it’s just that he doesn’t add…

Read More

Bodied (Joseph Kahn, USA) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2017

By Adam Nayman Or: Do the Wrong Thing. The protagonist of Joseph “Look What You Made Me Do” Kahn’s Eminem-produced 8 Mile satire (scripted by Toronto-area rapper Kid Twist) is a slim, shady grad student writing a dissertation on the subaltern subversiveness of clandestine rap battles. After some encouragement from a legendary (black) rapper—who tells…

Read More

Suburbicon (George Clooney, USA) — Galas

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman On paper (where it was doubtlessly first written, probably with a typewriter, 30 years ago) Joel and Ethan Coen’s script for Suburbicon evokes sinister, postwar domestic melodramas like Shadow of a Doubt and Bigger Than Life. On screen, as directed by George Clooney, it evokes—or, more accurately, pilfers, poorly and to no…

Read More

Three Peaks (Jan Zabeil, Germany/Italy) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman Three Peaks opens with a man and a child struggling to hold a conversation underwater in a fancy resort swimming pool; it’s a witty visual pun pointing to submerged motivations and difficult intergenerational communication. Jan Zabeil’s film is filled with such touches, and as they add up, you could be forgiven for…

Read More

Valley of Shadows (Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, Norway) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman The other clog doesn’t drop for a good long time in Valley of Shadows, a half-enchanting, half-enervating Norwegian feature whose director tries to have his horror tropes and transcend them too. That it takes Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen a while to really indicate what kind of movie he’s making could be taken as…

Read More

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, UK) — Special Event

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman He just can’t help himself. Unless my memory is failing me, Memento-style, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is the first World War II movie — and I suppose, provided we keep the designation relatively straightforward, the first war movie, period — that’s been deliberately crafted as a puzzle box. The relationship of form to…

Read More

The Disaster Artist (James Franco, USA) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2017

By Adam Nayman The pivotal moment in The Disaster Artist—James Franco’s absorbing, hall-of-mirrors adaptation of Greg Sestero’s combination memoir/tell-all about his participation in the making of The Room, which some have called the worst movie ever made—comes when oddball-narcissist-auteur-polymath Tommy Wiseau (played, naturally, by oddball-narcissist-auteur-polymath Franco) is humiliated at a Hollywood restaurant by a powerful…

Read More

High Fantasy (Jenna Bass, South Africa) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2017

By Adam Nayman The ’80s-style Hollywood body-swap comedy gets a purposeful and political makeover in High Fantasy, an inventive and entertaining South African feature that cleverly yokes heavy subject matter to an agile DIY aesthetic. Shot entirely on iPhones wielded by its adolescent cast members (who also wrote the script), the film takes the form…

Read More

Pyewacket (Adam MacDonald, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2017

By Adam Nayman The hands-down winner of the TIFF 2017 “Google the title to understand it” award, Pyewacket finds Adam MacDonald—who came to the festival in 2014 with a tough, impressive little thriller called Backcountry—swapping generic models, trading survivalist realism for occult-tinged horror. It’s a lateral move, and also not an improvement (albeit one that’s…

Read More

Ta peau si lisse (Denis Côté, Canada/Switzerland) — Wavelengths

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2017

By Adam Nayman Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) William K.L. Dickson’s Sandow (1894) is a three-part documentary study of the Prussian muscleman Friedrich Wilhelm Muller, who adopted the more flamboyant nom de plume after he dodged the draft and joined the circus. Sandow’s placement on undergraduate film studies curriculums the world over owes…

Read More

The Insult (Ziad Doueiri, France/Lebanon) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2017

By Adam Nayman. Call it Two Angry Men: Ziad Doueiri’s courtroom drama applies a stolid, old-fangled Sidney Lumet-ness to a geographically and historically disparate cultural context. The setting is Beirut, a city riven with ethnic and religious tensions. In the opening scene, mechanic Tony (Adel Karam) attends a rally of the Christian Party, whose conservative,…

Read More

Mary Goes Round (Molly McGlynn, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2017

By Adam Nayman “Are you a piece of shit?” This is the question being pondered by 29-year-old Mary (Aya Cash), who suspects that she might be and knows for a fact that she’s a hypocrite, peddling substance abuse-program platitudes at her day job while getting fucked up by night (and in the afternoon, and on…

Read More

That Day, on the Beach: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk

By Adam Nayman / July 21, 2017

By Adam Nayman He just can’t help himself. Unless my memory is failing me, Memento-style, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is the first World War II movie — and I suppose, provided we keep the designation relatively straightforward, the first war movie, period — that’s been deliberately crafted as a puzzle box. The relationship of form to…

Read More

Sandy Wexler (Steven Brill, US)

By Adam Nayman / June 22, 2017

By Adam Nayman At the end of Sandy Wexler, the film’s eponymous Hollywood talent manager (Adam Sandler), who has come out the other end of a heart attack, grabs the microphone at a party filled with his showbiz family and belts out a nasal, atonal rendition of Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”…

Read More

Deaths of Cinema | Nothing Will Die: John Hurt, 1940–2017 

By Adam Nayman / March 24, 2017

By Adam Nayman  It’s all in the wrist. Buried beneath layers of latex as John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), the only part of John Hurt that is visibly untouched by disfiguring makeup is his left arm, which the actor wields with the precision and grace of a sabre. It’s both an…

Read More

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / December 19, 2016

By Adam Nayman How in the world did Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves) win the Best Canadian Feature prize this year at TIFF? I’m wondering this not because I think the film is unworthy, or necessarily…

Read More

Jackie (Pablo Larraín, US/UK/France)

By Adam Nayman / December 19, 2016

By Adam Nayman In In the Line of Fire (1993), John Malkovich’s crack-shot-slash-crackpot gets off a wickedly funny line about JFK, gloating that the 35th Commander-in-Chief’s favourite poem was Alan Seeger’s “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” which, he adds, “is not a good poem.” It’s a bad-taste joke touching on the verboten notion that…

Read More

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice (Alanis Obomsawin, Canada) — Masters

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2016

By Adam Nayman There is a moment near the end of Alanis Obomsawin’s purposefully epic-length courtroom-procedural documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice where the camera catches a lawyer’s convictions wilting—he can’t even really make eye contact with the tribunal he’s trying to convince, much less sell them on the idea that the Canadian…

Read More

(Re)Assignment (Walter Hill, Canada/France/US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2016

By Adam Nayman A potential powder keg of (trans)gender politics provided anybody ever actually sees it after its TIFF premiere, Walter Hill’s (Re)Assignment is sort of two movies in one: a low-rent, bullet-in-the-head revenge thriller that embraces clichés like long-lost friends, and an inconngrously high-minded disquisition on style that cribs from Shakespeare and Poe en…

Read More

Below Her Mouth (April Mullen, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2016

By Adam Nayman Nomi Malone’s swimming-pool gyrations in Showgirls (1995) have nothing on the scene in Below Her Mouth where fashion editor Jasmine (Natalie Krill) brings herself to orgasm via a full-blast bathtub faucet while perched perilously over the porcelain basin; if nothing else, it’s quite a display of upper-body strength. So, credit director April…

Read More

Trespass Against Us (Adam Smith, UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2016

By Adam Nayman In a film filled with significant canines—from an accidentally immolated mutt to a prize police-unit sniffer to a redemptive purebred puppy—Michael Fassbender’s hangdog eyes are best in show: after all, acting Shame is right in our hero’s wheelhouse. As Chad, a reckless, criminally-inclined traveller caught somewhere between his firebrand father’s (Brendan Gleeson)…

Read More

Weirdos (Bruce McDonald, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Having given Bruce McDonald a pretty rough ride in this space last year for the so-bad-it-had-to-be-contractually-obligated horror movie Hellions, I’m inclined to go easier on Weirdos, which has the same rambling, open-road sensibility of the director’s very best movies. Not that this gentle period comedy (dateline: Antigonish, 1976) ever really challenges the…

Read More

The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Let’s stick to what’s on screen here, and say that Nate Parker isn’t the first multi-hyphenate to conflate artistic megalomania with authentic heroism—a pre-damage control Mel Gibson got an Academy Award for it, for instance. At the risk of praising with faint damnation, The Birth of a Nation is roughly on a…

Read More

American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Only Philip Roth could conceive an epic in which a Jewish patriarch is literally blameless and figuratively guilty for the sins of the Greatest Generation—self-flattery and self-flagellation conveniently interlaced. That said Jew is played, in this new cinematization of Roth’s American Pastoral, by the Scots-born Ewan McGregor (pulling double duty behind the…

Read More

Interchange (Dain Iskandar Said, Indonesia/Malaysia) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2016

By Adam Nayman The supernaturally-inflected police procedural is a subgenre with international traction (as evidenced by the recent success of The Wailing), but while there’s surely something trendy about Malaysian director Dain Iskandar Said’s new thriller, it draws on local culture in a way that suggests its inspirations predate and supersede True Detective. Said shows…

Read More

L’Avenir (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2016

By Adam Nayman A decade after her youthful debut Tout est pardonné (2007), the now-35-year-old Mia Hansen-Løve has become a veteran. But she’s always been an old soul. Her films are rife with scenes of teenagers being forced to confront hypocrisy and loss well ahead of schedule, and she’s very good at capturing the split-seconds…

Read More

Denial (Mick Jackson, US/UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2016

By Adam Nayman As the notorious and famously discredited Holocaust denier David Irving in Denial, Timothy Spall deadens his eyes, twitches his jowls, masticates his dialogue and scrunches himself into truly ghoulish configurations. Not since Jeremy Irons played Claus Von Bulow has a gifted English actor thrown himself so bodily into a role as a…

Read More

Hello Destroyer (Kevan Funk, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2016

By Adam Nayman It’s either genuinely ballsy or calculatedly smart for a young Canadian director to attack the culture and codes of junior hockey. The fact is that Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer is set to get a lot of attention at TIFF and beyond, and it’s constructed sturdily enough to stand up to any forthcoming…

Read More

The Fixer (Adrian Sitaru, Romania) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2016

By Adam Nayman “The Romanian Nightcrawler” is probably not the most accurate description of Adrian Sitaru’s new film, but it captures something of its commitment to attacking present-tense fifth-estate ethics. The media critique is a sub-genre that’s historically been the sole provenance of American filmmakers, but The Fixer makes a valid claim on the territory.…

Read More

Prevenge (Alice Lowe, UK) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2016

By Adam Nayman In Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (2012), Alice Lowe created a role and gave a brilliant performance as a woman slowly but enthusiastically embracing her own latent psychosis – going crazy as a state of grace. Her feature directorial debut Prevenge mines similar territory with less robust but still relatively healthy returns. Lowe’s thing…

Read More

Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2016

By Adam Nayman The title’s a metaphor, of course. New Waterford-based Ashley McKenzie’s feature debut, after a string of sterling shorts, tracks two methadone-swigging wastrels whose chemical dependencies have them eking out a feral existence in small-town Nova Scotia. The narrative materials are generic—plenty of down-in-the-mouth Canadiana out there—but the filmmaking is vivid and specific.…

Read More

Christine (Antonio Campos, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2016

By Adam Nayman A perfect exemplar of a bad good movie, Antonio Campos’ Christine traps (an excellent) Rebecca Hall in a series of impeccably composed frames as the famously ill-fated Sarasota local news anchor Christine Chubbuck. One good way to gauge your patience for this exercise in high-handed dread is how you react to seeing…

Read More

American Honey (Andrea Arnold, UK/USA) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2016

By Adam Nayman Following Andrea Arnold’s third consecutive Cannes Grand Prix, allow me to suggest another award, this one for lifetime achievement: Most Literal-minded Use of Pop Music. Determined to top the deployment of Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” at the climax of the 2009 Fish Tank (in which life was a bitch), Arnold kicks off…

Read More

X Quinientos (Juan Andrés Arango, Canada/Colombia/ Mexico) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

By Adam Nayman The sinister shadow of Iñárritu hangs over Juan Andrés Arango’s tripartite character study, which doesn’t explicitly interconnect its stories Babel-style but nevertheless seems similarly intended as a commentary on universal issues of displacement and alienation (sans international movie stars, of course; this is a Canadian co-production after all). As such, it’s pretty…

Read More

It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan, Canada/France) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

  By Adam Nayman As in Tom at the Farm (2013), It’s Only the End of the World finds Xavier Dolan more or less on his best behaviour, humbly (as much as that’s possible for him) adapting a pre-existing play (by the late Québécois writer Jean-Marc Lagarce) rather than weaving his melodrama out of whole…

Read More

The Rules of the Game: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

By Adam Nayman In Elle, Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) slaps her adult son in the face, sleeps with a hammer under her pillow, deliberately smashes into her ex-husband’s car and later pepper-sprays him, accidentally crashes her own car, buys a gun, and forces a much younger male employee at her video-game company to show her his…

Read More

Power of Attorney: Better Call Saul

By Adam Nayman / June 27, 2016

By Adam Nayman “Better Call Saul is the shit and looks like—wait for it—digital Pedro Costa.” —@bmrow, April 17, 2016 Twitter isn’t always right, but when it is, the results can be illuminating. It might seem odd to begin an appreciation of AMC’s Better Caul Saul by talking about lighting; in the great mainstream moving-images…

Read More

Uniquely American Symptoms: The Manchurian Candidate 

By Adam Nayman / March 21, 2016

By Adam Nayman In the waning days of 2015, public intellectuals as varied as Salman Rushdie, Bill Maher, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floated (or sky-hooked) the notion that Donald Trump was a “Manchurian Candidate,” despite the fact that none of them—or the many, many pundits and think-piece artists mining the same vein of pop-culture reference—could agree…

Read More

Vanishing Point: Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

By Adam Nayman / March 11, 2016

  By Adam Nayman “How do I find you? Who do you turn to?” A very Malickian line of inquiry, but these words do not emanate from any of the many voiceovers in Terry, the Creator’s latest. Rather, they’re taken from Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, another sprawlingly solipsistic, wildly undisciplined testament of faith…

Read More

You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

By Adam Nayman / December 21, 2015

  By Adam Nayman If we can begin with a parlour game—and on the evidence of The Hateful Eight, our American Psycho laureate Quentin Tarantino is lately beloved of such Funny Games—let’s play Six (not Eight) Degrees of Separation. The score for QT’s al dente spaghetti western was originally written in 1982 by Sergio Leone’s…

Read More

Notes on Camp: An Interview with David Wain

By Adam Nayman / September 22, 2015

By Adam Nayman In the exciting climax of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp—the eight-part Netflix prequel to David Wain’s 2001 cult comedy about a Jewish summer camp circa 1981 infested with horny teenagers portrayed by paunchy grown-up comedians—the counsellors face down none other than Ronald Reagan (played by co-creator Michael Showalter). The…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Desierto (Jonás Cuarón, Mexico/France)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 17, 2015

By Adam Nayman “Welcome to the land of the free,” growls self-styled border patrolman Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), mere moments after shooting up a group of Mexicans trying to sneak into the United States. With his pickup truck, sleeve tattoo, antenna-mounted Confederate flag and “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker—not to mention his high-powered rifle—he’s the…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2015

By Adam Nayman No, it’s not an alternate title for the Thatcherite satire of High-Rise: Rebecca Miller’s abrupt slide into conventionality after a string of spiky efforts follows the Machiavellian machinations of a thirtyish single gal (Greta Gerwig) who steals the writer husband (Ethan Hawke) of an eccentric academic (Julianne Moore) and then tries to…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Hurt (Alan Zweig, Canada)—Platform

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2015

By Adam Nayman Real-life stories don’t come much more metaphorically resonant than that of Steve Fonyo, the B.C.-born amputee who followed in Terry Fox’s footsteps in a cross-Canada run for cancer research in 1985—an inspirational route that has led him 30 years later into total ruin. The mystery of how a national hero was so…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Hellions (Bruce McDonald, Canada)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2015

By Adam Nayman One hopes that Bruce McDonald’s heart wasn’t in Hellions. At times, it’s feeble enough to be mistaken for backyard filmmaking, except that it lacks the joy—the getting-away-with-somehing giddiness—of kids remaking Halloween with a consumer-grade camcorder. John Carpenter’s classic is evoked a half-dozen different times over the course of the truly incomprehensible storyline,…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Hyena Road (Paul Gross, Canada)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 14, 2015

By Adam Nayman Canada, Fuck Yeah. Written, directed, starring, and narrated by Paul Gross—close-shorn and bearded like a badass—Hyena Road tries to show that war and war movies aren’t just for Americans. Our boots are on the ground and filled by strapping specimens like Rossif Sutherland, cast here as a northern cousin to American Sniper’s…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Man Down (Dito Montiel, US)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2015

By Adam Nayman Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a visionary work of abstract cinema—a haptic masterpiece that overwhelms the viewer through the sheer scale of its imagery. Then again, I was sitting in the front row of a press screening held in an IMAX cinema, so your mileage may vary. Chances are that those audience…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | The Steps (Andrew Currie, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2015

By Adam Nayman For generating the mental image of Chad Kroeger getting head from Sloane from Entourage, The Steps warrants scorn; it’s a weak Canadian movie indeed that has to namecheck Nickelback in order to get a laugh. Actually, the funniest moment in Andrew Currie’s film is when Big Apple broker Jeff (Jason Ritter) phones…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | I Smile Back (Adam Salky, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2015

By Adam Nayman “Do you want to hear about the daddy issues or the drugs?” queries Laney (Sarah Silverman) to her doctor on the first day of rehab; 28 days later, she’s had ample time to talk (and think) about both, but it’s unclear as to whether or not she’s been healed. Because Laney is…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema, Canada)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2015

By Adam Nayman It’s the Time of the Wolf, Canadian-style. But where big bad Michael Haneke quickly gets his apocalypse on the Road, Patricia Rozema keeps her characters in the Cabin in the Woods—all the better to see them emote, my dear. Adapted from Jean Hegland’s allegorical novel about an unspecified near-future catastrophe that leaves…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Trumbo (Jay Roach, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2015

By Adam Nayman All Dalton Trumbo ever wanted was his name on an Academy Award, and the same goes for the people who’ve been entrusted with telling his life story. This is not to impugn Bryan Cranston or the other crackerjack actors cast as (in)famous faces from Hollywood’s past—chances are that Otto Preminger would have…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Eye in the Sky (Gavin Hood, UK)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2015

By Adam Nayman “In war, truth is the first casualty,” Aeschylus assures us on the opening crawl of Eye in the Sky, which only partially accounts for why Gavin Hood’s dramatic thriller feels mostly phony. Actually, there’s something authentically Greek—Socratic, even—about the film’s structure, which toggles between various American and British political and military authorities…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Endorphine (André Turpin, Canada)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2015

By Adam Nayman Freed from the constraints of shooting Instagram-style for Xavier Dolan, André Turpin amply fills the wide screen in this, just his third feature in 20 years. Hopefully, he didn’t spend too much of the time since Un crabe dans la tête (2001) fretting about the substance of this ostensible subconscious odyssey, which…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Legend (Brian Helgeland, UK)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2015

By Adam Nayman Last year, Tom Hardy came to TIFF with The Drop, a drab Brooklyn crime film that afforded its star the opportunity to talk like Adam Sandler; this year, with the Kray brothers biopic Legend, we get two strenuous Hardy vocal performances for the price of one. Perish the thought that our man…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | The White Knights (Joachim Lafosse, France/Belgium)—Platform

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2015

By Adam Nayman Everything about this fact-based account of French aid workers plotting to transport African orphans back across the Atlantic to pre-paid adoptive parents—under the guise of a fictitious NGO whose mandate is geared towards in-country education—is scrupulously realistic. And the questions it asks about Western altruism in the Third World are pertinent and…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Dégradé (Arab Nasser & Tarzan Nasser, Palestine/France/Qatar)—Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2015

By Adam Nayman As ambulatory mammalian metaphors go, a manacled and toothless lion is pretty shaggy stuff: chained passively outside a Gaza Strip hair salon operated and populated by a group of women, the poor beast stands in for a society under the thumb of violent ideologues. A kind of distaff Dog Day Afternoon shot…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Der Nachtmahr (AKIZ, Germany)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2015

By Adam Nayman What Kim Gordon is doing in an arty, Berlin-set German genre movie is anybody’s guess, but the strangeness of her extended cameo as an empathetic high-school English teacher at least interrupts the surrounding monotony. In his feature debut, pseudonomynous German video artist (and Banksy associate) AKIZ stages the same scene over and…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Stranger (Yermek Tursunov, Kazakhstan)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2015

By Adam Nayman With Kazakhstan going to the dogs, young Ilyas decides to run with the wolves. Stranger isn’t officially an adaptation of The Jungle Book, but there’s more than a pinch of Kipling to its wild-child set-up. The notion that a feral lifestyle on the outskirts of the steppe is preferable to village life…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Les êtres chers (Anne Émond)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2015

By Adam Nayman Anne Émond bests fellow French-Canadian whippersnapper Xavier Dolan in the Now-That’s-What-I-Call-’90s-Music department in Les êtres chers, as Blind Melon and Elliott Smith give way to Pulp (“Common People,” naturellement). That the first two (dead) artists specialized in songs about suicide and the latter made a habit of we-love-life anthems offers a hint…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Schneider vs. Bax (Alex van Warmerdam, The Netherlands/Belgium)— Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2015

By Adam Nayman Double Dutch hitmen, separated by a swamp and gunning for each other at the behest of a mutual colleague with his own agenda and no scruples: the set-up for Alex van Warmerdam’s comic thriller is lean and mean. The follow-through, though, is cramped, convoluted, and downright cruel, at times in ways that…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn, Canada)—Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2015

By Adam Nayman Murder, masturbation, melancholy, molly—this is one overstuffed Canadian debut feature. Perhaps they should have cut the talking hamster. That said rodent squeaks with the voice of Isabella Rossellini marks a casting coup for this low-budget Newfoundland production about the growing pains of a moody teen. The arch campiness of Rossellini’s bits blends…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Our Little Sister (Kore-eda Hirokazu)—Masters

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2015

By Adam Nayman Surely the most demure manga adaptation in cinematic history—there isn’t a single bad-touching tentacle in sight—Our Little Sister finds Kore-eda Hirokazu in Ozu mode. With its numerous floor-level views of women sitting in repose and its structuring motif of changing seasons, the film could be taken as a tribute from one Japanese…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | My Internship in Canada (Philippe Falardeau, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2015

By Adam Nayman Good commercial Canadian directors are hard to find—except in Québec, where money and audiences exist to make the effort seem worthwhile. Yet none of the province’s hitmakers have accrued the critical cred of Philippe Falardeau, whose cinema perches an agile seriocomic sensibility atop sturdy mainstream structures: the coming-of-age nostalgia of It’s Not…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2015

By Adam Nayman More funny games from the ringleaders of the New Greek Cinema: in a country that invented bread and circuses before Rome was even a gleam in a she-wolf’s eye, Athina Rachel Tsangari and her merry band are willing and able to make their own fun. In lieu of comparisons to Yorgos Lanthimos’…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Brooklyn (John Crowley, UK/Ireland/Canada)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2015

By Adam Nayman A textbook example of international co-production funds well spent—note the flashy film-festival slots from Park City to Manhattan—Brooklyn arrives duly hyped, and disappoints just as reliably. Encouraged by her prematurely spinsterish sister to flee the Emerald Isle for the figuratively greener pastures of America, Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) spends her first year Stateside…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | The Waiting Room (Igor Drljaca, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2015

By Adam Nayman The past is rear-projected in Igor Drljaca’s sophisticated second feature; while the exact nature of the (student?) film being shot on a soundstage in the film’s centrepiece sequence is unclear, it’s obvious that Yugoslavian actor Jasmin (Jasmin Geljo, who was also in the director’s earlier Krivina) is uncomfortable pantomiming a drive through…

Read More

Canadiana | What Does It All Mean? Canada’s All-Time Top Ten List

By Adam Nayman / June 23, 2015

By Adam Nayman TIFF All-Time Top Ten 1. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001) 2. Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971) 3. The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997) 4. Léolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1992) 5. Jésus de Montréal (Denys Arcand, 1989) 6. Goin’ Down the Road (Don Shebib, 1970) 7. Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)…

Read More

Burn, Hollywood, Burn: David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars

By Adam Nayman / February 27, 2015

  By Adam Nayman Back in September, when the world was young, I opined in this space that Maps to the Stars was its director’s worst movie in fifteen years. Six months later, on the eve of its American release, I’m not so sure. It’s a peculiar quality of David Cronenberg’s films that they almost…

Read More

Mann’s Fate: Michael Mann’s Blackhat

By Adam Nayman / January 16, 2015

By Adam Nayman It’s a measure of Michael Mann’s self-awareness—and, all evidence to the contrary, he must have some—that over the course of Blackhat Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) gets to play at being both Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham. Introduced in manacles and prison whites with a full complement of armed guards monitoring his every…

Read More

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, US)

By Adam Nayman / December 18, 2014

By Adam Nayman A semi-surprise winner of the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best First Film award, Jennifer Kent’s Sundance breakout The Babadook feels very much like a debut even as nearly everything in it is familiar. It’s a fine line between cliché and archetype, and Kent’s tale of a single mother trying to protect…

Read More

The Face of Another: Christian Petzold’s Phoenix

By Adam Nayman / December 17, 2014

By Adam Nayman Nina Hoss has one of the great faces in cinema, so it’s perverse to see it swaddled in gauze at the beginning of Phoenix. Strapped into the passenger seat of a car being driven over the Swiss border into Germany at the end of World War II, her Nelly Lenz is a…

Read More

Last Rites: Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher

By Adam Nayman / November 14, 2014

By Adam Nayman Early on in Foxcatcher, the eccentric and bottomlessly deep-pocketed John du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to an American munitions dynasty and a collector of expensive military gadgets, expresses his frustration about the indifference afforded to young men who’ve served their country overseas. That the veteran in question is a wrestler rather than…

Read More

Pursuits of Happiness: David Fincher’s Gone Girl

By Adam Nayman / October 2, 2014

By Adam Nayman [MAJOR SPOILERS ahead] Lest anybody doubt that Gone Girl is a comedy, consider that it includes, in no particular order: a scene where America’s favourite bad actor Ben Affleck is coached on his line readings by a character played by a well-known Hollywood film director (Tyler Perry); that his punishment for uninspired…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2014

By Adam Nayman A stray line about a “Dr. Viridiana” early in The Duke of Burgundy gives the game away: after the giallos humour of Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland is chasing Luis Buñuel. Not with too much urgency, mind you: on the basis of his three features to date, the British writer-director is less interested in precise pastiche than evoking…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | The Editor (Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy, Canada) — Midnight Madness)

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2014

By Adam Nayman The Editor could have used one. Much like the previous Astron-6 production Manborg, this passionately scrawled love letter to Argento, Fulci et al makes a fetish of both its cheapness and its knowingness, neither of which seem very endearing after a while (let’s say about 30 minutes, to be generous). Co-director Adam…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Teen Lust (Blaine Thurier, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman If Satan came back and saw the movies that were being made in his name, he’d never stop throwing up (pea soup, probably). Our Dark Lord is invoked routinely in Teen Lust, in which the virginal son of suburban Baphomet-worshippers endeavours to get laid before he becomes a sacrificial lamb—a premise already…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Li’l Quinquin (Bruno Dumont, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman It’s not HBO, it’s (French) TV, and it’s also paradoxically the best movie that Bruno Dumont has made since L’humanite (1999)—a good point of comparison because Li’l Quinquin is basically a remake, give or take. Rural religious community? Check. Wobbly, possibly retarded police officer? Check. A random, ritualistic slaying? Check. Meditation on…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Heartbeat (Andrea Dorfman, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman In which a lapsed Halifax folkie very gradually gets her groove back. It’s every bit as thrilling as it sounds. Look: it’s clear that writer-director Andrea Dorfman—making her first feature since the well-liked Love That Boy (2003)—adores her star Tanya Davis, whose droopy eyes and dopey smile don’t seem like a put-on,…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Bird People (Pascale Ferran, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman A film ideally screened at film festivals—where its scenes of characters logging into hotel wi-fi on their laptops and thrashing around in the throes of jetlag will pack an affective punch—Bird People has divided critics as neatly as its own bifurcated, his-and-hers narrative. Set almost entirely inside the confines of a Parisian…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | [REC] 4: Apocalypse (Jaume Balaguero, Spain) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman Call it the [REC] of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This third and (I’m guessing) worst sequel to the 2007 Spanish found-footage horror flick is set at sea, for no good reason other than that the franchise hasn’t gone there yet. So a year after World War Z gave us Zombies on a Plane,…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Men, Women & Children (Jason Reitman, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman With Labor Day, Jason Reitman announced his intentions to become the new Sam Mendes. People should be careful what they wish for. Men, Women & Children could have easily been titled Fall Prestige Picture, or maybe Oscar Movie—you know, something with that nice, concise Seltzman/Friedberg ring. But that would promise a comedy,…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Backcountry (Adam McDonald, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman The obvious point of reference for Adam McDonald’s feature debut is The Edge, except that there’s (more) sexual chemistry between the two leads. (Sorry, Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.) Stubbly Jeff Roop and springy Missy Peregrym star as a city couple who make the (possibly, but no spoilers here) fatal mistake of…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman “I’m not going to hire a fucking thief,” exclaims a character early on in Nightcrawler, and while the name-check of Michael Mann’s debut feature is likely entirely coincidental, it serves to place Dan Gilroy’s debut feature in the proper context. As in Mann’s Heat, Los Angeles plays itself here, a star turn that’s…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, USA/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman Nick Broomfield’s limey knight-errant act has had its moments of wearing thin—as in the terrible Sarah Palin: You Betcha!—but at its core it’s clever, endearing and effective. Shamelessly brandishing the tools of his trade (i.e., his ever-present, conspicuously dangled boom mic) everywhere he goes, Broomfield stylizes himself into a caricature of the…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2014

By Adam Nayman “You exist,” says Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) to his wife Sandra (Marion Cotillard) in the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night—a line which echoes another in Ms. Cotillard’s other recent auteur-film turn in James Gray’s The Immigrant (“You are not nothing”), a movie with which Two Days, One Night otherwise shares very little,…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, Sweden) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2014

By Adam Nayman It’s hard to recall a recent movie that’s whiter than Force Majeure, and not only because it’s set in Sweden. Ruben Östlund’s third film takes place at sleek ski resort whose peaks and slopes seem pristine against the usual telltale marks of human incursion; here, the snow blankets everything, and even sometimes…

Read More

Imaginary Love: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2014

By Adam Nayman In 2014, in a fictional Canada, Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature Mommy doesn’t get much attention at all… It’s a fine line between utopia and dystopia. To say that the world (of cinema) would be a better place without Xavier Dolan might be pushing it. But would it really be worse than the…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, USA) — Gala

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2014

By Adam Nayman Early on in Foxcatcher, eccentric billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) expresses his frustration about the indifference afforded to young men who’ve served their country. That the veteran in question is an Olympic gold-medal winning wrestler (Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz) rather than a military man doesn’t diminish the sense of reactionary…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, Canada) — Gala

By Adam Nayman / August 31, 2014

By Adam Nayman David Cronenberg’s worst movie in fifteen years finds him playing his usual home game on foreign turf. Los Angeles in Maps to the Stars feels just as alienated and under-populated as New York in Cosmopolis (2012), which is of course the point—a point that was once novel but is getting tiresome. Also…

Read More

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival | Escape Artists: Bird People and Locke

By Adam Nayman / July 11, 2014

  By Adam Nayman A film seemingly made to be screened at film festivals, where its scenes of characters logging into hotel wi-fi on their laptops and thrashing around in the throes of jetlag will pack an affective punch (for journalists, at least), Bird People has divided critics as neatly as its own bifurcated, his-and-hers…

Read More

Diary of a Mad Housewife: Robert Greene’s Actress

By Adam Nayman / June 25, 2014

By Adam Nayman “I tend to break things,” says Brandy Burre early on in Actress, and Robert Greene’s film gives her plenty of opportunities to validate this claim. An aggressively stylized profile of a former ensemble player on The Wire who now lives with her husband and two young children in sleepy Beacon, New York,…

Read More

Words Matter: James Gray on The Immigrant

By Adam Nayman / June 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman I won’t write too much about The Immigrant here, as Adam Cook has already ably reviewed the film (in Cinema Scope 55) and because for once, James Gray doesn’t seem to lack for champions closer to home than his usual Parisian cheering section. That The Immigrant has been warmly embraced by the…

Read More

Sing Your Life: Matthew Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker

By Adam Nayman / May 9, 2014

By Adam Nayman If Matt Porterfield were a basketball player, he’d be the skinny two-guard who curls stealthily off of screens and puts up quality shots, who you don’t even notice has eighteen points until it shows up in the box score. What I’m saying is that the 36-year-old Baltimore native is skilled in a…

Read More

Ballbreaker: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

By Adam Nayman / April 11, 2014

By Adam Nayman Despite its ruggedly physical mien, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer is a haunted movie, possessed by the unavoidable spectre of its smash-hit predecessor The Exorcist (1974). Even as he ostensibly disavowed the supernatural in what was originally intended to be a moderately-budgeted in-between picture before he embarked on a major production about the Bermuda…

Read More

Hardbodies and Soul: The Professional Wrestler as Actor

By Adam Nayman / March 20, 2014

By Adam Nayman Wrapping up the Toronto International Film Festival in Film Comment last fall, editor Gavin Smith praised Philomena and confused the Yucatan for the Philippines before bestowing his seal of approval on Oculus, a mildly effective American horror movie by Mike Flanagan about a haunted mirror. Notwithstanding Smith’s assertion that it features “the…

Read More

Approaching the (Baby) Elephant: True/False 2014

By Adam Nayman / March 6, 2014

ADAM NAYMAN: While still far from elephantine, Columbia, Missouri’s annual True/False festival has grown just large enough to accommodate celebrity buzz—or at least jokey rumors that Soulja Boy was going to show up for the closing-night screening of Boyhood. It’s thus also big enough to have finally attracted a little bit of backlash. To cite one…

Read More

Death of a Sailsman: J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost

By Adam Nayman / December 13, 2013

By Adam Nayman Robert Redford dies at the end of All Is Lost. This is not, strictly speaking, a spoiler, as the climax of J.C. Chandor’s sophomore feature is calculatedly ambiguous—an existential Choose Your Own Adventure, if you will. The final image of Redford’s unnamed seaman reaching out to grasp the outstretched hand of an…

Read More

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, US)

By Adam Nayman / December 13, 2013

By Adam Nayman For a pair of authentically brand-name filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen have a funny thing for pseudonyms and noms de plume. It’s common knowledge that they’ve edited all of their productions (and been nominated for multiple Oscars) under the assumed identity of “Roderick Jaynes,” and the films themselves are filled with examples…

Read More

Victory Lap: Alexander Payne’s Nebraska

By Adam Nayman / November 22, 2013

By Adam Nayman Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is a mechanical movie, and the machine it resembles is a duck press—an old-fashioned device, but darned if it doesn’t squeeze something out in the end. Such moist entreaties have been the director’s stock-in-trade since the smiling-through-tears conclusion of About Schmidt (2004), a road movie that cast Jack Nicholson…

Read More

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity

By Adam Nayman / October 4, 2013

By Adam Nayman [SPOILERS, as they say, below.] In space, apparently, no one can hear you scream “Cut!” That’s the sensibility of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, which unravels its tale of two astronauts stranded outside their damaged shuttle in a series of gossamer-glossy long takes, with perilously dangling (digital) camera movements courtesy Cuarón’s house DP Emmanuel…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | The Sacrament (Ti West, US)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman In which a cult filmmaker spikes his own Kool-Aid. Ti West’s sloppily made and surpassingly tasteless movie slaps a Vice logo on its account of American documentarians investigating a secretive Caribbean commune. But even if the found-footage textures aren’t really supposed to fool anybody—not unless Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley have suddenly…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Fading Gigolo (John Turturro, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman The image of an aged Woody Allen facing down a tribunal of stone-faced rabbis near the end of Fading Gigolo is probably a keeper, and whatever else one might say about John Turturro’s film, it deploys its septuagenarian special guest star to superb effect. To wit: Woody here is playing the amateur…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Child of God (James Franco, US)—Special Presentation

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2013

By Adam Nayman Stuffed-animal lovers beware: several very huggable toys are obliterated by shotgun blasts in Child of God, inanimate stand-ins for all the men and women and social institutions that Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) wants to cut down with his crack-shot aim. Blame Cormac McCarthy, whose worst novel (by a mile) has been faithfully…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan, Canada)—Special Presentation

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2013

By Adam Nayman As the titular Tom, co-screenwriter-director-producer-narcissist Xavier Dolan sports a tangled blonde dye job that screams “city boy” even louder than his Montreal accent. Decamping to the Québécois wastelands for the funeral of his lover Guillaume, Tom is every inch the ostracized outsider, on top of which he has to play along with…

Read More

Athens Decathlon: TIFF 2013 City to City

By Adam Nayman / August 28, 2013

By Adam Nayman You can probably trace the idea—or at least the exact etymology—of the so-called “Greek Weird Wave” back to a 2011 Guardian article by Steve Rose. In it, the author sagely mused that “the world’s most messed-up country is making the world’s most messed-up cinema.” Of course, the movies that prompted Rose’s declaration—Yorgos…

Read More

The Talented Mr. Allen: Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine

By Adam Nayman / August 2, 2013

By Adam Nayman Cate Blanchett’s best film performance remains her slight but crucial supporting turn in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1998). Playing Meredith Logue, a nouveau-riche heiress who has trained herself to swoon at the opera, Blanchett gently underlines this society neophyte’s would-be sophistication. The moment when she strategically nuzzles up to her date on…

Read More

Mourning in America: Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station

By Adam Nayman / July 17, 2013

By Adam Nayman Pulling into a gas station to fill up after a morning spent doing errands, Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) witnesses a speeding car barrels over a stray dog hanging out on the curb. Startled and enraged, he chases the car halfway down the block before turning his attentions to the victim. Looking…

Read More

Danger Zone: FX’s Archer

By Adam Nayman / June 24, 2013

By Adam Nayman Pam: Speaking of, you see the bulge on that towel boy? Man, if I was you, I’d be in this spa 25/8. Cheryl: Yeah, but then I wouldn’t get to hang out with everybody at work. Pam: You hate everybody at work. Cheryl: I know. It’s the only thing that gets me…

Read More

Bauble Heads: Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring

By Adam Nayman / June 20, 2013

By Adam Nayman Taking its title from Steely Dan’s barbed, the-kids-aren’t-alright tract “Show Biz Kids” and its plodding, piano-driven beat from Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets,”  Frank Ocean’s single “Super Rich Kids” is a wasted daydream of (literally) high-living largesse (“Start my day up on the roof / There’s nothing like this kind of…

Read More

Boring Twenties: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

By Adam Nayman / May 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman Before it’s even begun, Cannes 2013 is off to a dubious start with The Great Gatsby. Even if nobody really expected this latest version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epochal novel to be worthy (of an Opening Night slot or anything else), it doesn’t even manage to be outrageous. For long stretches Baz…

Read More

By the Book: Evil Dead

By Adam Nayman / April 5, 2013

By Adam Nayman In Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead—which pointedly but pointlessly drops the definite article from its title—the demonic spirit is willing and the flesh is as weak as it needs to be: not since Carter Smith’s underrated 2006 adaptation of The Ruins (or maybe Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours) has a movie focused so intently…

Read More

After-School Special: Joseph Kahn’s Detention

By Adam Nayman / March 21, 2013

By Adam Nayman No American filmmaker in recent years has put his money where his mouth is like Joseph Kahn, the director of music videos for artists including Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, U2, and Wu-Tang Clan. These are big names, and for the part…

Read More

Fight Club: Judd Apatow’s This Is 40

By Adam Nayman / December 21, 2012

By Adam Nayman When Paul Rudd declared midway through Knocked Up that marriage was like a “tense, unfunny episode of Everybody Loves Raymond,” it was meant as a warning to a friend. As it turns out, he was also offering an advance review of This Is 40. Judd Apatow’s “sort of sequel” to his career-and-industry…

Read More

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / December 16, 2012

By Adam Nayman Even if they didn’t say it in print, there were plenty of Toronto critics who suspected that Sarah Polley was being disingenuous when she claimed her sophomore feature Take This Waltz (2011) contained little to nothing in the way of autobiography. That Polley crafted her Parkdale-set Scenes From a Marriage after the…

Read More

Find Me Guilty: Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing

By Adam Nayman / December 16, 2012

By Adam Nayman Like most other documentaries about people who are certifiably insane, The Act of Killing raises questions about the exploitation of its subjects. Namely: Is it even possible to exploit men who freely and in some cases gleefully admit to the torture, rape, and murder of untold scores of their countrymen? And also:…

Read More

So You Think You Can Dance: David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook

By Adam Nayman / November 16, 2012

By Adam Nayman The amateur-hour pas de deux that climaxes Silver Linings Playbook is the best indicator of  what the film’s director thinks he’s doing the rest of the time. Led by a series of plot contrivances that raise the term “Byzantine” by several minarets, recently institutionalized history teacher Pat (Bradley Cooper) and manic-depressive pixie-dream-girl/black-eyeliner-widow…

Read More

Regular Lovers: Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On

By Adam Nayman / October 14, 2012

By Adam Nayman Keep the Lights On begins with a very modern kind of masquerade: from his single bed in a Brooklyn apartment, Erik (Thure Lindhart) tries to sell himself as a sneering stud to a series of strangers on a gay-sex party line. Yet while this opening creates an expectation that the film will…

Read More

Golden Girls: Sean Baker’s Starlet

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2012

The opening shot of Sean Baker’s fourth feature Starlet is beautiful, and not just because it (eventually) rests on Dree Hemingway. Underneath dreamy, faintly menacing music by Manual, we fade up on a mottled wall cast in sunlight, with some sort of tousled mass peeking out slightly from below. That little blonde outcropping is our…

Read More

Here’s Looking at You, Kid: Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild

By Adam Nayman / July 13, 2012

By Adam Nayman A prize winner at both Sundance and Cannes, Beasts of the Southern Wild has made an industry darling of its 29-year old writer-director Benh Zeitlin and a Film Comment cover girl out of its six-year-old star Quevenzhané Wallis. It’s been rubber-stamped in various venues by Manohla Dargis, Scott Foundas and Amy Taubin,…

Read More

Compliance (Craig Zobel, US)

By Adam Nayman / June 24, 2012

By Adam Nayman In a 2007 interview with Filmmaker magazine, Craig Zobel opined that “there’s something sexy and cool about being a scam artist…it just never fully lets you empathize with the person on the other side of it.” He was referring to the fact that his debut feature Great World of Sound (2007) included…

Read More

Get Out of the Car: David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis

By Adam Nayman / June 24, 2012

By José Teodoro and Adam Nayman Cosmopolis opens with a hubcap-level pan across a fleet of white stretch limousines, objects of ostentatious wealth, absurdly oversized and ugly, yet invisible in their anonymity and ubiquity, luxurious yet barely able to move through a teeming city’s daily traffic. A great deal of David Cronenberg’s film, which spans…

Read More

Split Decision: Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz

By Adam Nayman / June 22, 2012

By Adam Nayman The first sign that Take This Waltz is going to be too writerly comes in the very first scene, when Toronto parks worker Margot (Michelle Williams) is coerced by a group of Nova Scotian historical re-enactors into pantomiming flogging an adulterer. As a self-contained scene, it’s pretty funny: the Canadian Heritage Site…

Read More

Escape Hatches: The Cabin in the Woods

By Adam Nayman / April 21, 2012

By Adam Nayman **SO, SO MANY SPOILERS BELOW** It’s one thing to get a lesson in remedial spectatorship from a professional scold like Michael Haneke, whose films can sometimes feel like the cinematic equivalent of the headmaster ritual; it’s quite another when the lecture comes courtesy of Joss Whedon. His script for The Cabin in…

Read More

Epinephrine, Man: The Cranked-Up Films of Neveldine/Taylor

By Adam Nayman / April 4, 2012

By Adam Nayman Two men on fire: the burnt cranium of the title character in Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s new Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance unmistakably evokes the climax of their earlier Crank: High Voltage (2009). The spectacle of a brainpan in flames is an apt avatar for a directing duo whose M.O. is…

Read More

Agrarian Dystopia: David Wain’s Wanderlust

By Adam Nayman / March 1, 2012

By Adam Nayman One of the great joys of David Wain’s Role Models (2008) was the way that it satirized live-action-role-playing culture while also conceding the appeal—and even exhilaration—of attaining one’s second-life goals. When Augie Farcques (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) finally topples the arrogant weekend-warrior monarch of L.A.I.R.E. (which stands for “Live-Action Interactive Role-Playing Explorers”) it’s not…

Read More

Hammer Horror: Ben Wheatley’s Kill List

By Adam Nayman / December 20, 2011

By Adam Nayman MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD The claw hammer that makes mulch of an amateur pornographer’s skull in the midpoint money shot of Kill List is a blunt instrument wielded with purpose. It’s the perfect avatar for Ben Wheatley’s style in his astonishing second feature. Working with cinematographer Laurie Rose and editor Robin Smith, both…

Read More

Kinda Like a Movie: Jason Reitman’s Young Adult

By Adam Nayman / December 16, 2011

By Adam Nayman In his review of Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, J. Hoberman informs us that its protagonist, 37-year-old hack writer Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), “packs up and drives back to [her hometown of] Mercury, Minnesota, while playing a vintage mix tape heavy on The Replacements.” This is incorrect: the song that Mavis keeps blasting…

Read More

Endings and Endings: Recontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montreal 2011

By Adam Nayman / November 18, 2011

By Adam Nayman I’m not sure what the small clutch of filmmakers, buyers, distributors and other assorted festival-goers with a hole in their early-morning schedules got out of Jan Rofekamp’s presentation at RIDM’s market. Armed with a laptop containing short clips from about a dozen recent documentaries, the Films Transit International honcho didn’t so much…

Read More

Horrible Bosses: Margin Call

By Adam Nayman / November 11, 2011

By Adam Nayman The Occupy Wall Street protestors who assault the hapless Kenneth Park ( Bobby Lee ) near the beginning of A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas are a sight gag: an excuse to restage James Caan’s tollbooth execution in The Godfather (1972) with hucked eggs in lieu of bullets. “They’ve lost their…

Read More

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, US)

By Adam Nayman / June 28, 2011

By Adam Nayman Trolling through the dispatches from Cannes, I’ve yet to read one review of Midnight in Paris that invokes La Jetée (1962). This is possibly because in a film that, pace the worst of Woody Allen, takes pains to underline its other references and homages, the nod in Chris Marker’s direction is rather…

Read More

All About Steve: Super 8

By Adam Nayman / June 10, 2011

By Adam Nayman Put on the spot in an interview about why there were so many lens flares in his reboot of Star Trek (2009), J.J. Abrams joked that it was “because the future was so bright that it couldn’t be contained in the frame.” Super 8, which takes place in a 1979 that is…

Read More

The Reckless Moment: 5 MDFF Shorts at The Royal

By Adam Nayman / May 15, 2011

By Adam Nayman The mission statement of the Toronto-based production company Medium Density Fibreboard Films expresses a desire to focus on “projects that display a strong sense of cinematic handwriting.” So if I say that the films of Kazik (Kaz) Radwanski feel as if they’ve been jotted down, I mean it as a compliment. Instead…

Read More

SFIFF 2011: Encounters at the End of the World

By Adam Nayman / May 6, 2011

By Adam Nayman It was perhaps inevitable that my karaoke selection during a Jameson-soaked next-to-last-night party for the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival was “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.” This year’s selection (or at least what I saw of it on an abbreviated jaunt for FIPRESCI jury duty) was…

Read More

…And I Feel Fine: Gregg Araki’s Kaboom

By Adam Nayman / April 15, 2011

By Adam Nayman A  berserk sugar rush of a movie featuring a cast so uniformly young and supple that Roxanne Mesquida registers as a veteran presence, Kaboom has been heralded as a homecoming of sorts for Gregg Araki. The story goes that John Waters urged Araki to try to recapture the adolescent kick of his…

Read More

The Party’s Over: 2010 in TV

By Adam Nayman / March 12, 2011

By Adam Nayman First things first: the funniest and probably finest episode of television produced in 2010—on par with much the Americans produced last year for the cinema—was “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday,” the highlight of the second (and final) season of Party Down. Of all the great things about this series following a Hollywood catering company…

Read More

The Lusty Men: Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Hall Pass

By Adam Nayman / February 25, 2011

By Adam Nayman On the long list of film-critical clichés, asserting  that a new release represents a “return to form” for its maker(s) rests somewhere near the middle, between describing a movie as a “meditation” on a given subject labelling it “good for what it is.” This essentialist dodge is most frequently applied to “low”…

Read More

Speaking Parts: Clio Barnard’s The Arbor

By Adam Nayman / February 20, 2011

By Adam Nayman “I’ve got loads of childhood memories, but none of them are really good.” These words are spoken early on in The Arbor by Lorraine Dunbar, daughter of the Yorkshire playwright Andrea Dunbar, who achieved national fame in 1980 at the age of 15 for writing a play about growing up on a…

Read More

The Bee’s Knees: The Green Hornet

By Adam Nayman / January 20, 2011

By Adam Nayman To begin with, a Gondrian image: a boy sticking his superhero doll out of the window of a moving car to create the appearance of flight. Thus does the first shot of The Green Hornet recall the opening of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo (2001), with its action figures colliding in negative space, a…

Read More

Death of the Author: The Ghost Writer

By Adam Nayman / January 8, 2011

By Adam Nayman “Did you notice anything suspicious?” asks a sign posted inside a ferry in The Ghost Writer. Well, of course you did: this is a Roman Polanski film after all, and the near-octogenarian auteur is peerless when it comes to grinning intimations of conspiracy. The film, which won Polanski Best Director in Berlin…

Read More

Interviews | Suicide Girl: Athina Rachel Tsangari

By Adam Nayman / December 17, 2010

By Adam Nayman “How do people do it?” This is the question posed by Marina (Ariane Labed) to her best (and only) friend Bella (Evangelina Randou) in the opening scene of ATTENBERG. Marina is asking about French kissing, which she’s never tried before—nor anything else of that nature. Though still about two decades shy of…

Read More

Interviews | The Antisocial Network: Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here

By Adam Nayman / September 21, 2010

By Adam Nayman It’s appropriate that Toronto video artist Daniel Cockburn’s feature debut premiered in Locarno in the Filmmakers of the Present competition. More than any other film I saw at the festival, You Are Here represents an attempt to wrestle with the present tense. Which is not to say that Cockburn’s “meta-detective story” is…

Read More

Interviews | Watching the Detectives: Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather

By Adam Nayman / June 18, 2010

By Adam Nayman Aaron Katz’s films are marked by a quality that’s unusual in American cinema: his characters really always seem to be listening to each other. This sense of information sincerely conveyed and received is central to the Portland native’s debut Dance Party, USA (2006), which pivots on an extended monologue delivered by teenaged…

Read More

Interviews | Surfing on the Wave of Reality: Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s Alamar

By Adam Nayman / March 17, 2010

By Adam Nayman “It is a film.” So said Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio when asked by a Toronto International Film Festival patron about whether he would categorize his sophomore feature Alamar (To the Sea) as a “documentary” or a “fiction”—a meaningless-but-inevitable question given its line-blurring particulars. The director’s seemingly off-the-cuff answer drew a smattering of supportive applause, but…

Read More

Currency | Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, US)

By Adam Nayman / December 16, 2009

Like Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton (2007), Up in the Air casts George Clooney as a crinkly-eyed corporate bogeyman—specifically, Ryan Bingham, a “transition counselor” who racks up frequent-flyer miles travelling cross-country to various white-collar companies and firing their employees as a courtesy to confrontation-averse middle-managers. And, like Michael Clayton (which, it should be said, is a…

Read More

Interviews: Cryptographies and Blood: Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro

By Adam Nayman / September 12, 2009

By Adam Nayman “Family is a stab in the heart,” snarls Vincent Gallo as Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro. It’s a remark that cuts two ways: the blood that flows from the wound is both a sacrament and a damned spot. Despite their marked differences in age and temperament, there’s never any doubt that tetchy writer…

Read More

Interviews | Me and My Shadow: Michelange Quay’s Eat, for This is My Body

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2009

By Adam Nayman Michelange Quay’s impressive debut feature Eat, for This Is My Body begins with a tracking shot that glides across the sea, passes over the shore and then moves ominously inland. What it eventually locates there is not an empire but the remnants of one. The film addresses the colonial legacy of Haiti,…

Read More

Currency | Diary of the Dead

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2009

Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero, US) By Adam Nayman It matters not a whit that Diary of the Dead is a dreadful movie: its themes are easily discernable, and thus it has been subject to high-end critical cooing. “One of the most revealing and fascinating critiques of image-making since Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom”…

Read More

Interviews | Shore Leave: Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool

By Adam Nayman / August 31, 2009

By Violeta Kovacsics and Adam Nayman At the end of Lisandro Alonso’s second feature Los muertos (2004), the arrival of the long-journeying lead character at his former home constituted a distressing question mark. In the director’s new film Liverpool, which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight this past Cannes film festival, it feels more like a shrug.…

Read More

Currency | Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy

By Adam Nayman / August 28, 2009

Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (Richard Brouillette, Canada) By Adam Nayman In an interview conducted at this year’s Hot Docs festival, Montréal-based filmmaker Richard Brouillette recalled being inspired by a viewing of Francisco de Goya’s etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters—a wryly frightening 1797 self-portrait depicting the painter prone at his desk beneath a swarm…

Read More