The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an animated film that will heavily resonate with artists everywhere. We have a young aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell(Abbi Jacobson) embarks on a road trip with her parents, Rick (Danny McBride) and Linda (Maya Rudolph), younger brother Aaron (Michael Rianda), and her beloved dog to start her first year at film school. During their family bonding time, things take a turn for the worst, as the world’s electronic devices come to life to stage an uprising. The Mitchells are only ones who can save everyone – and the planet- from the new tech revolution.
What stands out the most in the film is the animation. Sony’s animation is so beautiful and vibrant. They have added their own unique spin to how they create the world for their stories. The almost lifelike animation, combined with the fast-paced action, and fun story, makes this film one of the best of the year, so far. Young Katie has been trying to find out who she is. She expresses herself through her filmmaking but her parents don’t really understand her dream. There are some hard-hitting conversations that happen between Katie and her parents, especially her father.
As a creative, the deeper conversations about choosing the right path in life, are moments we can all relate to. Fortunately for me, my parents have always been supportive but there have been some conversations about my decisions that have hurt me. The road as a creative is a difficult one but it can also be really rewarding. Katie knows all about technology and how to use it, so when the world is overturned by these robots, she works with her father (even though they are at odds) in order to save everyone. The father/daughter relationship is probably my favourite aspect of this film because of how honest and realistic the conversations were.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines is very funny, action-packed and heartfelt. It is the family road trip movie we didn’t know we needed and Sony definitely delivered. Lord and Miller never miss. Their films are always fun for the whole family. They have this great balance of kid-friendly flashiness and a solid story that everyone can resonate with. Also need to give a shout out to the two friendly robots, I recognized their voices instantly and they added such great humour to the action scenes. This voice cast was wonderful and the family unit is probably one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.
Grace Fury, A Voice With Legs is an interesting documentary that highlights the art form of dance. Laura Carruthers, leads a world-class performing artists in a feature film memoir that explores unique choreography and cinematography to express the internal thoughts of performers. It is a cross between dance theatre and autobiographical documentary. Dance has always been about connecting to the theme or mood of the music that is being used. It is a form of expression and Carruthers speaks on how challenging it can be to build projects for film and stage, anywhere in the space.
She pays homage to the Classical and Scottish Highland dance traditions. While doing so, she expresses her thoughts about dance and the connectivity it has to everyone’s emotions. The documentary has great camerawork and very soft framing to show the beauty of the choreography. She took the time to show how beautiful the art form can be, as she adds a voice-over explaining how she is feeling and how her world works. It is truly a reflection of Laura’s years in the arts. She brought together her passion of cinema and dance to present unique visuals, so the viewer will be able to connect to the movements.
You almost enter into a trance while watching it because, in a way, it does have some experimental elements. The post-production team did a very good job on the editing, as it is always hard to create something, with multiple shots, for live performances. That is what impressed me the most, was the playfulness of the camera when moving with her dancers on stage. It really did capture the beauty of the art form and how fluid those movements are. People don’t realize how much of your own spirit goes into those movements and connecting with them.
Grace Fury, A Voice With Legs showcases dance theatre in a unique way, while discussing the difficulties of building projects in the field. There’s a level of calmness that comes with watching these performances and how there is so much honesty in the way she is delivering her thoughts. To see the love of the art form through this documentary was refreshing and inspiring. True creatives and artists will appreciate the work that has been done.
The one thing that we can all agree on is that everyone has had their fair encounters with bullying. No matter how minor the bullying could have been, we can all acknowledge that it exists. People can be cruel, violent, and completely horrible. Bullying, can take many forms and sometimes it is impossible to get out of that position. In Better Days, something that really stood out to me was the line, “Either you bully others or you get bullied.” and no matter your position, there is some form of it every single day. Derek Tsang wanted to address this specific issue for many years and when his producer handed him the novel by Jiu Yuexi’s book ‘In His Youth, In Her Beauty‘, he could finally tell the story through a specific lens.
Tsang wanted to shed light on this issue because it was always a fascinating subject. He addressed social platforms like YouTube and Facebook having multiple videos of young children being bullied. Smartphones have made it very accessible for these traumatic situations to appear on any platform in the matter of minutes. “That is when it really shocked me, as to how these kids can do that sort of stuff to each other. The idea of making a film to personally address the issue has been there since. It has been around for a long time but I was always trying to find an angle to help tell the story.” Tsang said.
What can most definitely be appreciated about this film is Tsang being extremely honest with his audience. He did not shy away from showing the most violent, emotionally damaging and traumatic moments at all. I’m sure everyone will appreciate the fact that Tsang wanted to make it authentic as possible, “I really wanted all of the slaps, punches and hits to be real. So that the audience can really feel the pain.” When directing one of the harsher scenes, Tsang made sure that his lead actress, Dongyu Zhou, who plays Nian, was comfortable with this level of physical contact for the scene, “She was very professional, she said she wanted that as well because she didn’t want it to look fake.” There was a level of trust that was built on this set, among the entire cast and crew because of the story they were bringing to the screen.
What was really interesting to see was the budding relationship between Nian and Bei (Jackson Yee), they started out as a very unlikely pairing, meeting in an alleyway because some men were beating Bei. Nian, who had clearly seen enough bullying/harassment at that point in the film, goes to save him, even if she was manhandled, she wanted to save someone. Nian and Bei lived two very different lives, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and they slowly become dependent on the other. There is a mutual respect and love for one another, given the cards that they were dealt in life,
“So we told them, not only do you guys have to treat each other like boyfriend and girlfriend, but I want you guys to be family, like a brother and sister, in which you would sacrifice yourself for the other, to survive. So that’s how we really approached that relationship. I mean it was really fascinating to watch the actors slowly getting into that trust and bond as well. We shot everything in linear sequence and it just worked it out perfectly.”
-Derek Tsang, Better Days
The performances from Yee and Zhou were incredible. You could truly see their connection become stronger as the film went on and filming it in linear sequence, presented a different feel to their relationship. Anyone can resonate with this kind of bond. Tsang said, “It was more like two people becoming one entity, in their belief, in their wish, or hope in escaping this situation, or the city itself.” Tsang also shows the class system very well and dives into the hierarchy in the education system as well. There are people who will always have an air of superiority and that is something that can only be dismantled, from within the system, which created that mentality.
When asked about how children can sometimes feel ashamed that they are being bullied, Tsang mentioned that it is a very difficult position to be in. Whether you are the child being bullied, or the authority figure trying to help them. Children do not want to admit that they are being bullied because they do not even know what the consequences could be after reaching out to someone. They live in constant fear of speaking out because they overthink what could possibly happen to them. “Kids in that situation a lot of times, they find themselves very helpless. In a way we kind of wanted to convey that message in the film, that’s why we have the point-of-view of the teacher and the parents.” Tsang said. He explored all avenues and wanted to present a whole piece about those who are suffering from bullying and how to help.
Even though the story was very bleak and poignant, the journey for Tsang and his crew was very memorable. When you bond over a mutual respect for an issue and a love for your craft, that bond is like no other. And Tsang was able to find both throughout his journey. He shared a memory with me,
There is one photo that you could find online, everytime I see that photo it always brings warmth and a smile to my face. There’s a photo of us, it was taken immediately after we shot the scene, when the actor and actress shaved their head. In solidarity, I told my actors, especially my actress because it’s a big thing for an actress to shave her head. So I said, if you’re going to do it, I’ll do it with you guys. I’m going to shave my head and it was just amazing bc not only me but a lot of the crew, we all shaved our head in solidarity with the actors.”
– Derek Tsang, Better Days
In the time they spent together, they became very close and in telling this brutally honest story, it brought them even closer. Better Days is a labor of love and audiences who watch this film will understand the message. Everyone needs a bit more compassion, empathy and most importantly love in their life. For a film to have this much support off-screen, for a serious subject matter like bullying, it can be very rewarding. The importance of addressing these issues authentically will help so many others in the long-run.
Woman in Car premiered at the Canadian Film Festival last week. It is such a multilayered film, that dives into the female experience through relationships, trauma and deceit. It is always interesting to explore the female characters in high society because there can be so much to unpack. It is an in-depth look at the psychology of past mistakes and how it can affect the future. The script is well-written and Vanya Rose peels back the many layers of Ann (Hélène Joy). There are so many things to unpack in this story and Ann’s experience as a woman is really interesting to dive into.
Rose wanted to explore this bourgeois society because of her interest in Edith Warton’s novels. Warton always wrote about it and more importantly she questioned it, even though she was a part of it,
“We have this neighbourhood in Montreal, called West Mount which is kind of what used to be the center of money in all of Canada. Montreal was the center of everything. It was home to the richest people in Canada. And so that interested me bc it had never been explored in Quebec at all. We see a lot of the working class films, which are great, beautiful films but we don’t really see how Montreal had that historically, and it’s still there.”
– Vanya Rose, Woman in Car
In order to understand Ann’s internal struggle, one has to understand the society she lives in and the family she is connected to. As we see in the film, Ann’s persona is quite different around her mother-in-law Charlotte (Gabrielle Lazure), stepson Owen (Aidan Ritchie), and newcomer Safiye (Liane Balaban). She hides pieces of herself from the people she meets with. The one thing that really interested me was Ann’s sense of control. Rose wanted to give Ann a passion, so she chose archery,
“I wanted Ann to have a passion. I wanted her to have something that she had given up. What’s amazing about these archers is not only are they complete perfectionists, like to the nth degree, they’re a little bit odd these people, they have a very specific skill that they developed. It’s a skill of shooting something directly on the nose and that’s all you do over and over again. You have to have a personality type, that’s just so foreign this desire and this training that goes into that.”
– Vanya Rose, Woman in Car
Archery has always interested Rose and it came through with the character of Ann. The way that the archery, can be interpreted through Ann’s character is that she always needs to be in control. Even as she was losing herself in her former marriage, she found something in her stepson to regain that control, even though the events made her spiral even further. She wanted to make decisions on her own but this society she was in, this family that she married into, wasn’t easy for her at all. We see that Ann has a clear shot at the beginning of the film, she was composed and reserved. She managed to hit the bullseye. Then towards the end of the film, she can’t even calm herself down in order to shoot the arrow at all.
Ann slowly unravels as the film goes on, and it is connected to her feeling neglected, in her relationship with her soon-to-be husband. When asked about showing that kind of emotional experience and why it is necessary to show on screen, Rose said, “I think that’s what art is right, isn’t art all about showing our human experience? I think that as a man or woman, though our human experiences, there is a lot of pain and I think joy is actually a very small part of all that.” She goes on to say that we all go through hardships, whether it be relationships or even pandemics, they impact us more than the greater joys in our lives, but that is what makes those moments special.
Woman in Car is all about human connectivity and relationships. Rose explores the way people treat each other and how they can change their perspective. Rose wanted to show a little compassion in this film, especially between women, “I think that’s the key. I think women have been traditionally pitted against each other because of competition and survival. What if we got rid of that? We don’t need to follow that old scenario, get beyond it and reach out to each other.” The relationship between Ann and the women in her life is very strained. There are vulnerable moments shared between the female characters in the film, where they each gain a deeper understanding of who they are. The film is multilayered, nuanced and incredibly sophisticated. It is a film that will keep you glued to the screen and will have you questioning what is possibly going to happen.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on an expedition and then experience the aftermath of it? Well After Antarctica is a documentary that highlights the entire journey of an international crew of six explorers in 1989, who set out to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dog-sled. Award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt intertwines the past and present, using stock footage through a different lens and utilizes the frame to tell this story. The expedition’s leader, Will Steger, returns to the Arctic tundra – this time at 75 years old – on his own, as he retells that historic, near-death journey all those years ago.
The documentary was beautifully shot and the one thing that Van Zandt did, was that she let the image within the frame breathe. If it was a scenic landscape, she let the viewer really take in how vast the Arctic was. As the viewer, you could feel yourself connect to the area and understand what Will Steger and his crew had to go through. The expedition took a toll on all of them, mentally and physically, and after watching this documentary, you can appreciate the work they did for the greater cause.
It’s such a fascinating watch because of the archival footage and actually seeing the weather conditions during the expedition. That is what is so shocking about this documentary, is the fact that they had to go through all of that, without the world knowing how that expedition affected them in the long run. You can also relate to Steger because he is returning to a place that really changed his life in so many ways. So, in a way, you feel that emotional connection to the environment as well. Not only because, Steger retells his story and what he was presently feeling, but because of the way Van Zandt captured the environment.
After Antarctica is a documentary that allows its subject to fully explore the extents of his own mind because of this strenuous journey. There is deep reflection of his time spent on the expedition and a beautiful, cathartic journey of his connection to nature in that environment. Tasha Van Zandt took her time with his story and fully explored it, so viewers could appreciate every corner of the globe and understand how important a connection to nature can be.