Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Black Bear – Well, we finally got to the movie in the festival where once the credits rolled I had a confused look on my face and went “huh?” It was bound to happen but even though it looks like I’m throwing a bit of shade at this film I am really not as the direction is great, the cast delivers but I just don’t think that the dual complexity of it worked. So. now, as I have you all confused I’ll try to give you a little context. Directed and written by Lawrence Michael Levine, the film follows a filmmaker at a creative impasse, played by Aubrey Plaza who seeks solace from her tumultuous past at a rural retreat with a married couple, played by Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon, only to find that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways. This description is almost a red herring as this only sort of describes the first half of the movie before it shifts to a real film being made at the remote house, flipping te character motivations and dynamics completely. Again, I enjoyed it but am still trying to unpack it.

NO TRAILER FOR THIS ONE

My Salinger Year – This is definitely one of my favorite films of the festival this year and the crowning achievement for director and screenwriter Philippe Falardeau whose last outing I saw at the Vancouver International Film Festival was My Internship In Canada, an absurd comedy that I’d love to forget. Based on Joanna Smith Rakoff’s novel of the same name, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s Margaret Qualley plays Joanna as a young aspiring writer who lands a day-job at J.D. Salinger’s literary agency in n New York City during the late nineties. While her eccentric and old-fashioned boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, tasks her to process Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, she struggles to find her own voice through romance, a crash course in the publishing world and communications with the reclusive writer that she knows as Jerry. This film is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and leaves a resonance that will put a smile on your face.

Summer Of 85 – Director Francois Ozon returns from last years By The Grace Of God, a movie that made me yell at my television screen when I watched it, with this teenaged romance that gave me glimmers of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. Punctuated by two fantastic and glowing performances from young actors Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin, this is the story of Alexis, a boy on the verge of becoming a man, who meets the individual responsible for the release of his sexuality during the summer of 1985 after the dreamy David rescues him from his capsized boat one afternoon. A torrid romance leads to heartbreak and tragedy which informs the rest of Alexis’ future and leaves an indelible mark on his soul. This film is such a beauty, a very endearing story of naivete that is gorgeously shot along a breathtaking French seaside. Ozon crafts one of my favorite singular stories in his career, showing that he is still a filmmaker who brings the soul every single time. 

Women In Blue – This is a massively topical documentary that puts us right in the center of a city going through massive turmoil still to this very moment and a fight that is not going to relent any time soon. The film is a close “fly on the wall” documentary that follows the stories of the women police officers in Minneapolis who try to reform the department and restore trust in the community after a high-profile police shooting forces its first female chief to resign. I can’t say that the end result of the movie leaves a lot of hope for women in leadership roles in police departments as it feels that al of those who are focused on end up marginalized or used as a scapegoat for public ridicule. The film also doesn’t touch on the George Floyd murder which would surely have added another element to the story. I couldn’t help but think, with everything going on at the moment, that this film was shot through a sort of “Blue Lives Matter” lens and it was a bad taste I couldn’t shake.

NO TRAILER FOR THIS ONE

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel – Remember The Corporation, a Canadian made documentary from 2003 that that looked at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance and even put it through the psychopath test? Well, director Jennifer Abbott and new co-director Joel Bakan are back this the very and, yes, unfortunately, necessary follow up that exposes how companies are desperately rebranding as socially responsible and how that threatens democratic freedoms. It is infuriating to watch in detail how these tactics had blurred political lines between massive conglomerates and dirty politicians and have effectively choked the life out of democracy to the point that it is almost completely unrecognizable. It’s also really interesting to see how close this has all gotten in the timeline as the filmmakers have been able to include the happenings of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies’ reactions and ad campaigns around it, exploiting the public needs and even the exploitation of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a great movie but, be warned, it will piss you off.

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