INHOSPITABLE – Review by Liz Braun

InHospitable is an indictment of the U.S. health care system, specifically the mega-hospitals disguised as non-profit organizations. It should be said that it may have been a mistake to let a (full disclosure) Canadian review this film, because to those of us accustomed to a very different medical system, InHospitable plays more like a horror movie than a documentary. The film focusses on a David and Goliath battle that played out in Pennsylvania over the ruthlessness of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC), a behemoth that was prepared to cut off care for hundreds of thousands of people. Director Sandra C. Alvarez tells the tale of what’s at stake in in the UPMC debacle through the stories of individual medical patients, immediately getting a viewer emotionally engaged.

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Cameron Bailey on TIFF 2022, Curation and Share Her Journey – Liz Braun interviews

For the first time in two years, The Toronto International Film Festival will be fully in-person. After falling back on drive-ins, streaming and limited screenings during the pandemic, CEO Cameron Bailey and his team were determined that TIFF 2022 would be extra special. “We knew we wanted to come back strong,” said Bailey in a recent interview. Mission accomplished.

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AWFJ Presents: QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK – Review by Liz Braun

Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack is a love letter to the artist and a mini-lesson in 20th Century gender politics and American art history. Directors Deborah Schaffer and Rachel Reichman trace the career of the now-91-year-old Flack by letting her do most of the talking. From Josef Albers getting handsy with her while she attended Yale to the exigencies of being a single mother and somehow finding time to paint, Flack’s history as a painter is also history of second wave feminism, entailing general survival in a male-dominated society and specific work in a milieu where women were barely acknowledged.

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THE RUNNER – Review by Liz Braun

The Runner is a complicated undertaking, seemingly unsure if it’s an action thriller, coming of age movie, cautionary tale about drugs or love story. You could consider it four movies for the price of one, but probably only if you were Pollyanna. This is a rich-kid-smartens-up story that is said to be aimed at shedding light on the terrible tragedy that is youth who are lost in the war on the drugs. The script is ambitious but never gets far beneath the surface of anything and never presents the characters with enough to do or say. It’s a shame, because The Runner has a solid cast.

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GIRL IN THE PICTURE – Review by Liz Braun

The extraordinary layers in this true crime story are carefully peeled back in a fashion that hooks the viewer almost immediately and never lets go. This is a particularly bizarre and unsavoury set of events — and it’s complicated — but with in-person interviews and recreations, filmmaker Skye Borgman moves seamlessly back and forth in time to drop shock revelation after shock revelation. This is a dip into the heart of darkness as to the fate of women and children — violence, vanishing, kiddie porn and other horrors — and for all that some mysteries are cleared up, the movie ends with many questions unanswered.

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THE MYSTERY OF MARILYN MONROE: THE UNHEARD TAPES – Review by Liz Braun

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is like the film version of a Daily Mail tabloid story. There’s no focus, no new theories advanced, no attempt to dig beneath the surface. Looking at images of the iconic actress is really the only reason to watch The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, an essentially bland undertaking based on dated material. Monroe’s own presence – snippets of old interviews, lovely photos, glorious bits of film footage -ensure The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is not a total loss.

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GIRLS CAN’T SURF – Review by Liz Braun

Equal wages, equal opportunities, equal treatment — the history of women in sport is a history of underdogs having to prove themselves over and over and over again. How the battle for equal treatment unfolded on the waves is the subject matter of Girls Can’t Surf, an energetic examination of women’s struggle to find equality in a male-dominated sport. The charismatic women pioneers of the surfing world are the reason to see this dynamic documentary. Featured are those who broke the surf ceiling and made sure contemporary female surfers were seen as athletes and not sideshow entertainment.

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ALINE – Review by Liz Braun

There’s some wild-eyed hagiography going in Aline, a hugely entertaining love letter to Quebec superstar Celine Dion. Co-written and directed by French actress (and comic) Valérie Lemercier — who also stars here — Aline is a kind of camp masterpiece, an over-the-top celebration of both the personal and the professional. This, as the movie makes clear, is the story of Aline Dieu, not Celine Dion, even if all the facts line up.

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Charlotte Wincott on THE ISSUE WITH ELVIS – Liz Braun Interviews

Dr. Charlotte Wincott is on a bit of a roll with her first narrative feature, The Issue With Elvis, a pleasing drama about an eccentric botanist and an abandoned boy, two lost souls saved by friendship.

Wincott made the film during the pandemic lockdown, tackling all the writing, filming and editing duties herself. Making a film by herself was hard work, said Wincott, but she is grateful for the technical changes that allowed her to do that.

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PHOENIX RISING – Review by Liz Braun

You might feel the need to shower after watching Amy Berg’s new two-part documentary, Phoenix Rising. The film focuses on Evan Rachel Wood, 34, and chronicles her past abusive relationship with Brian Warner, 53, better known to the world as shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Over the course of two 70-odd minute features, Wood claims that Warner groomed her when she was just a teenager and lured her into an abusive relationship that involved threats, sexual mistreatment and physical and emotional violence. The films offer a relentless pile-on of grisly detail.

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