BIRDS OF PARADISE – Review by Maitland McDonagh

Birds of Paradise treads the well-worn path blazed by films powered by the refrain that ‘everything is not beautiful at the ballet.’
The dance drama is beautifully made (even if it works the birds metaphor pretty hard) and never succumbs to the temptation to make the ballet world more “accessible” by revolving around an implausible outsider–I’m looking at you, Flashdance, and other misguided attempts to make the “stodgy” world of classical dance more relatable by focusing on a rebel whose mission is to make it less classical dance-y.

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HOLD YOUR FIRE (TIFF2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Taking place only months after the bank robbery/hostage situation that inspired Dog Day Afternoon, the January 1973 incident at John and Al’s Sporting Goods in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went on far longer – lasting nearly four days – and resulted in the death of a cop. It is also the event credited with ushering in the modern age of hostage negotiation. And it is has been pretty much lost to history – until now with the Toronto International Film Festival world premiere of Stefan Forbes’ Hold Your Fire, a riveting documentary on the subject.

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SILENT NIGHT (TIFF2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Apocalyptic stories are no strangers at the Toronto International Film Festival, my favorite of all time (granted one that predates my time at the festival) being Don McKellar’s TIFF award-winning Last Night, in which the Toronto native imagines how a group of city residents count down humanity’s final hours and emerges with a drama that is captivating and oddly, beautifully romantic. This year, the festival chose writer/director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night, another end-of-the-world story that like McKellar’s film tries to strike a tone beyond pure horror, but one doesn’t quite work with pieces that don’t quite fit. Griffin deserves credit for taking the risk, but it is one in which pay off proves elusive.

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SILENT NIGHT (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Can you remember the first time you really knew you were going to die? You know, when you learned that every human and living being on the planet has an expiration date, including you? What if that date was Christmas, and everyone else was going to die, too? That’s the premise for writer/director Camille Griffin’s film Silent Night. The film is terrifying and as dark as a starless sky, not because of the premise itself, but because of how the story unfolds. Absolutely not for children, and not even for adults who avoid movies with children in peril, this is decidedly not a Christmas movie.

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CRY MACHO – Review by Susan Granger

At 91, Clint Eastwood is still throwing punches, riding horses and directing movies. Amazing! In this contemporary Western, set in 1980, Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a former horse trainer/rodeo rider, on a mission to cross the Rio Grande, rescue and kidnap his boss’s estranged 13 year-old son, Raphael (Eduardo Minett), who was abandoned by his Texan father (Dwight Yoakum) and abused by his alcoholic Mexican mother (Fernanda Urrejola).

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AWARE: GLIMPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The documentary Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness is a heady experience – dare I say spiritual? – that stirs feelings of awe and wonder, humility and connection. In exploring how six people examine and probe just what consciousness is, the film creates a contemplative openness that words alone might find hard to describe. It’s a remarkable film.

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THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (TIFF2021)- Review by Liz Braun

Even at the height of their influence, Jim and Tammy Bakker were difficult to take seriously. The notorious TV evangelists got famous selling that specific American Christianity that is equal parts mammon, myth and messianic misdirection. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new film based on an eponymous documentary, attempts to capture this particular moment and these people. Directed by Michael Showalter and starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, it is short on script and long on latex.

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THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (TIFF 2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Jessica Chastain might be hoping that the sheer amount of makeup on her face will be good enough at awards time to garner her some nominations. In becoming The Eyes of Tammy Faye‘s Tammy Faye Bakker, there is so much coverage on the actor’s visage (really, so much that it is practically spackle) – which makes her resemble a John Wayne Gacy clown painting and which she blames for possibly forever altering her skin – that it is practically a character unto itself and certainly more animated than anything else in this needless dramatic regurgitation of the 2000 documentary of the same name. Whether all that paint will be good enough for an Oscar nod in a movie that misfires remains to be seen.

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